Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves a Democratic luncheon

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) leaves the Senate Democrats' luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on October 26, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

With 'Asinine' Filibuster Defense, Sinema Imperils Last-Ditch Voting Rights Push

"Sinema doesn't support the voting rights legislation. The filibuster just lets her pretend she does."

Jake Johnson

Right-wing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Wednesday cast further doubt on Democrats' nascent effort to pass voting rights legislation before the end of the year by reiterating her defense of the Senate's legislative filibuster, an archaic rule that the GOP minority has used to stonewall bills aimed at protecting the franchise.

"Senator Sinema is single-handedly destroying any hope of progress on voting rights."

Democratic leaders signaled Wednesday afternoon that they intend to shift their focus to a last-ditch voting rights push ahead of the new year after talks over the party's Build Back Better package faltered, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) indicating he wants to gut the expanded child tax credit—a non-starter for progressives.

But just hours after the party's rapidly changing strategy began to emerge, Sinema (D-Ariz.) all but dashed any lingering hopes of concrete action on voting rights, with her spokesperson telling Politico that the senator opposes even minor tweaks to the filibuster rule.

"Senator Sinema has asked those who want to weaken or eliminate the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation which she supports if it would be good for our country to do so," said Sinema spokesperson John LaBombard, who warned that newly passed bills could be "rescinded in a few years and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law, nationwide restrictions on vote-by-mail, or other voting restrictions currently passing in some states extended nationwide."

Voting rights advocates were quick to slam Sinema's latest filibuster apologetics as ridiculous, arguing it shouldn't take a supermajority in the U.S. Senate to thwart voter suppression legislation passed along party lines by state-level Republicans.

"This is so asinine," replied Stephen Wolf, a staff writer at Daily Kos Elections. "Republicans are already passing a wave of voting restrictions at the state level while the Supreme Court dismantles what’s left of the Voting Rights Act. Sinema doesn't support the voting rights legislation. The filibuster just lets her pretend she does."

Mother Jones journalist Ari Berman echoed that point:

Politico reported Wednesday that Senate Democrats are attempting to persuade Sinema and Manchin—another ardent defender of the filibuster—to support "installing the talking filibuster, which would force the minority to hold the floor and continuously put up at least 41 votes to block legislation, or creating a filibuster exception specific to the issue of elections and voting."

Thus far the right-wing senators have not agreed to either change, even after both voted earlier this week to bypass the filibuster to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. Manchin has previously suggested he would be open to reinstituting the talking filibuster, which would represent a major shift from the current-day rules that allow senators to mount a filibuster via email.

Filibuster reform would require the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

"We're carving out exceptions to the filibuster left and right depending on how important we all think an issue is. And yet we still don't have an exception to pass voting rights? How out of touch are we?" Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) lamented in a recent tweet.

For months, voting rights advocates and state lawmakers have warned that congressional Democrats are running out of time to prevent a wave of GOP-led redistricting and voter suppression—anti-democratic efforts that could prove decisive in the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans need to flip just five Democratic seats to take control of the House in 2022.

The Freedom to Vote Act, a compromise measure co-sponsored by Manchin and Sinema, would bar partisan gerrymandering, institute campaign finance reforms, and bolster ballot access. Republicans filibustered the bill when Senate Democrats attempted to pass it in October, and they would likely do so again if Democrats bring the legislation to the floor without a rule change.

Progressive advocacy groups and state lawmakers have called on Senate Democratic leaders to postpone the upcoming holiday recess and do everything in their power to pass strong voting rights legislation, including eliminating the filibuster entirely.

Emily Kirkland, executive director of the local advocacy group Progress Arizona, said in a statement late Wednesday that "in continuing to support the filibuster, Senator Sinema is single-handedly destroying any hope of progress on voting rights or democracy reform at the federal level for the foreseeable future."

"History will not be kind to her if she continues on this path," Kirkland added. "It is time for her to come to terms with her responsibility to the American people and end the filibuster—now."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·

Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·

UN Chief Warns of 'Ocean Emergency' as Leaders Confront Biodiversity Loss, Pollution

"We must turn the tide," said Secretary-General António Guterres. "A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future."

Julia Conley ·

'I Don't F—ing Care That They Have Weapons': Trump Wanted Security to Let Armed Supporters March on Capitol

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said on the day of the January 6 insurrection, testified a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo