All 4 Democratic Senators From Md., Va. Back Some Kind of Filibuster Reform

March 15, 2021
In The News

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rules threaten not only President Biden’s ambitious domestic agenda but also democracy itself. With the upper chamber split 50-50, the requirement means that most legislation effectively needs 60 votes to pass. And that means Republicans can block the Democrats from raising the minimum wage, rebuilding our infrastructure and reforming immigration. More important, the GOP can keep Congress from stopping Republicans’ aggressive efforts in state legislatures across the country to make it harder to vote. The barely disguised purpose of these legislative efforts is to disenfranchise African Americans and other Democratic constituencies. It risks enthroning minority rule and a Trumpist agenda in Congress, beginning with the 2022 midterms and for years to come. Given such stakes, it’s gratifying that there’s a growing movement within the Senate to weaken the filibuster and eliminate it in some cases — such as to protect voting rights and perhaps make the District a state.... The four senators from our region, all Democrats, support the reform efforts, albeit to varying degrees and with an emphasis on moving cautiously. Their views offer a snapshot of the range of Senate Democrats’ positions on this pivotal issue.... That’s a welcome sign for Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), lead sponsor of the “For the People Act,” or H.R. 1, a sweeping measure aimed in large part at blocking GOP efforts to suppress voting. Among other things, it establishes no-excuse absentee voting and guarantees 15 days of early voting nationwide. The House passed it March 3, but it will surely die in the Senate without filibuster reform. “It’s going to require [Senate] Democrats to reevaluate the rules and look at how they can be adjusted in order to allow critical legislation such as H.R. 1 to pass with a simple majority,” Sarbanes said. If that’s what it takes to protect representative democracy at a time when it’s under attack, then so be it.