January 14, 2022

Almost a year ago, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell agreed with majority leader Chuck Schumer to an equal power-sharing agreement for the upcoming session, reflecting the 50-50 split between the parties (with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote).  In exchange, McConnell agreed to allow the question of the filibuster’s continued existence to be brought up to a vote.  He did so because Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema promised not to end the filibuster.  That was an incredible gamble, but, on Thursday, Manchin and Sinema came through on a filibuster vote.  A furious Biden started hollering about the horrors of life without federalizing American elections and made it clear that Democrats will keep coming back.

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I must admit that I was dubious that either Manchin or Sinema would keep the promise to protect the filibuster.  I was certain they’d find a reason to go back on their word and end the 216-year-old procedural device that blocks a minute majority (such as the Democrats’ majority thanks only to Harris’s vote) from running away with legislation.  But they didn’t.  If I were in the room with them, I’d apologize for doubting them.

After explaining why she supports the “For the People Act” (and she’s completely wrong on that, as I discuss briefly, below), Sinema elegantly explained why she would not vote to end the filibuster:

Some highlights:

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I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.

[snip]

There is no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role protecting our country from wild reversals in federal policy.