As top Senate Republicans are indicating that they’ll employ their first filibuster of this Congress on the proposal to form a commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol breach, progressives and Democrats are re-upping calls to abolish the filibuster.
Republicans like Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) have come out against the commission, and others have indicated a general distaste for the idea, fearing it would hurt their party. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are the only GOP senators who have said they’d vote to end a filibuster on the issue.
In other words, all signs point toward an oncoming filibuster, which would effectively kill the legislation. It’s incredibly unlikely that Democrats would be able to get nine more Republicans on board with the commission to end the filibuster; even Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, has come out against the idea. The legislation could get a vote as early as this week.
To some Democrats and progressives, the fact that Republicans — the party responsible for the Capitol attack in January — could stop the proposal despite being the minority in the Senate is further proof that the filibuster needs to be abolished.
Filibustering the bipartisan commission on the attack, tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), “is a three dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) told HuffPost that the potential filibuster is “one more reminder that McConnell thinks he has a veto over anything that he wants to stop. That’s not what the founders thought when they wrote the constitution and it’s sure not what a Democratic majority should go along with now.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told Politico that he thinks the very use of the filibuster is an example of how archaic the procedure is. “When the filibuster is actually used, it becomes an exhibit in the case against continuing it,” he said. Durbin has previously come out in favor of filibuster reform.
The legislation establishing the commission, which passed the House last week, would create a bipartisan body of 10 — five members from each major party — tasked with investigating the January 6 Capitol attack. Both party members would have equal subpoena power, and its bipartisan setup is already a Democratic compromise from the previous Democrat-favoring structure.
Progressive House Rep. Cori Bush (Missouri) joined Democratic colleagues in calls for the end to the filibuster, saying, “There are Democrats in the Senate who say that we need the filibuster for ‘bipartisanship’ while Republicans are literally filibustering an investigation into the insurrection that could have killed them. We don’t compromise with white supremacy. End the filibuster.”
Progressive advocates also echoed the calls for ending the outdated practice. Berkeley professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said, “Does anyone seriously think the Framers would be okay with a minority of senators using the filibuster to block an investigation into a deadly attack on the U.S. government?”
The potential filibuster even got the ire of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who is one of the Democrats’ biggest roadblocks to filibuster abolition. “So disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country,” he told Politico.
Still, despite his disappointment with the GOP, Manchin is reportedly holding strong to his support of the filibuster. CNN’s Manu Raju reported on Tuesday that Manchin said he wouldn’t favor abolishing the practice even if it means that it would kill the January 6 commission. “I can’t take the fallout,” said Manchin.
He instead put out a statement with fellow filibuster proponent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) asking his Republican colleagues to support the commission — though a statement is unlikely to change the minds of the party dead set on sabotaging the Democratic agenda.