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kill the filibuster

Advocates of killing the filibuster protest at the Manhattan office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on July 26, 2021. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Filibuster Reform for Debt Ceiling Fight But Not Voting Rights or Reproductive Freedom?

"If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

Jessica Corbett

Progressives on Tuesday responded to reports that U.S. Senate leadership reached a deal to allow Democrats to raise the nation's debt ceiling by suggesting similar maneuvers on other key priorities for the party, from voting rights and reproductive freedom to gun violence prevention and immigration reform.

"Faced with the frightening prospect of the United States defaulting on our debt, the proposed solution is a convoluted legislative maneuver that highlights the Senate's growing dysfunction," said Sean Eldridge, president and founder of the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America.

"This deal makes clear the need to reform the filibuster to make the Senate work for the American people," he added. "If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

In a tweet Tuesday, Stand Up America highlighted two specific pieces of legislation that Republicans in the evenly split Senate have prevented from reaching President Joe Biden's desk: the Freedom to Vote Act—a compromise that followed the twice-blocked, bolder For the People Act—and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

"Allowing the 33 voter suppression laws passed by state Republicans this year to go into effect isn't an option," the group said. "Senate Democrats must end the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Our democracy depends on it."

Earlier in the day, responding to reporting by Punchbowl News, Stephen Spaulding of the group Common Cause noted that the deal "will increase pressure for doing something similar" on other top legislative issues.

Along with passing the voting rights bill named for the late John Lewis, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives recently approved the Women's Health Protection Act, which has gained greater attention as the right-wing majority Supreme Court has heard arguments for a case that could reverse abortion rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade in 1973.

GOP state legislators' growing attacks on both voting rights and reproductive freedom this year have fueled demands for U.S. Senate Democrats to reform or fully kill the filibuster so they can swiftly advance legislation on both issues. However, a couple of key Democrats—namely Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)—remain opposed to such a move.

Rather than Democrats taking broader action related to the filibuster or garnering Republican support to raise the debt ceiling before the rapidly approaching December 15 deadline, Senate leaders have settled on "a complicated legislative maneuver to help them stave off another high-stakes battle and prevent the U.S. government from experiencing a catastrophic default," according to The Washington Post.

The newspaper noted that each party's top Senate member—Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—"expressed a measure of confidence that they had the votes to proceed with their plans, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put the House on track to adopt the measure Tuesday evening."

Politico reported that "at a party leadership meeting on Tuesday, McConnell pitched his lieutenants on a convoluted strategy that would require at least 10 Republicans to approve legislation that would later allow Senate Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by a simple majority vote. Though Republicans would still be facilitating an easier debt ceiling increase for Democrats by carving out an exception to the Senate's supermajority requirement, it's increasingly likely enough Republicans view it as the least-bad scenario."

Explaining that filibuster rules would be suspended for about a month to increase the debt ceiling, Politico added:

But it would require Democrats to raise the debt ceiling to a specific number rather than suspend it for a length of time, such as through the election.

Republicans can tout that as a key concession, while Democrats successfully rebuffed Republicans' efforts to force them to use the more cumbersome budget reconciliation process to raise the debt ceiling. The debt increase would likely range from $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion to ensure Congress won't have to address the debt again before November midterms, according to several people familiar with the matter.

While Politico noted that this is "a stunning turnaround for McConnell," another Republican leader made clear the maneuvering is a political calculation.

"I'm going to support Democrats raising the debt ceiling without Republican votes," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the outlet on Tuesday. "To have Democrats raise the debt ceiling and be held accountable for racking up the debt is my goal. And this helps us accomplish it."


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