Senate Democrats – many of whom support a filibuster change – are advocating abolishing the rule in order to change the minds of their peers who want it to be retained.
A vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act this week marked the latest development in the process, which will soon include votes on a number of other democratic priorities that are likely to fail. These votes are designed to demonstrate Democrats ‘commitment to issues such as voting rights and gun control, while underscoring Republicans’ willingness to obstruct these policies.
As bill after bill is blocked by Republican filibusters, Democrats hoping to abolish the rule are hoping to back up their arguments for a unilateral change given the fact that the party has a slim majority in the Senate.
Currently, 60 votes are required to pass or block laws. And virtually all laws can be filibustered, so the 50-strong Democratic faction always needs 10 Republicans ready to come on board to approve anything from police reform to immigration reform. Should it be thrown out, the Democrats would only need 50 votes from their caucus plus the tie vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to pass bills.
Moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are still decidedly against rule changes and bring them out of reach. The vote on highly unlikely democratic priorities is designed to show moderates how reluctant Republicans are to support major bills and encourage them to rethink.
“Any vote will build the case to condemn the Senate Republican leadership for embroiling themselves in a political deadlock to their advantage rather than voting for the agenda that the American people voted for in 2020,” said Senator Ed Markey ( D-MA) the New York Times.
The Democrats deployed that strategy on Tuesday when the 50 Republicans in the Senate unanimously voted to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law aimed at tackling the gender pay gap that fell short of 49 votes to 50. It is the second measure failed this year by a Republican filibuster after the GOP previously blocked a law that would set up an independent commission to investigate the deadly January 6 uprising.
The failure of the Paycheck Fairness Act was a reminder that Republican obstruction from Democratic bills extends to even fairly popular laws. The policy of gender parity in the draft law is supported; A majority of voters in a 2019 Politico / Morning Consult poll said they believed the federal government was not doing enough to close the wage gap. The Republicans falsified the Paycheck Fairness Act during the Obama administration and were ready to block the widely supported January 6th commission.
“Americans expect their government to make progress to improve our country, but Senate Republicans seem to be choosing disabilities once again,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech this week.
This series of votes is intended to underline the republican obstruction
The Paycheck Fairness Act is just one voice among many that could clarify the extent of Republican disability. It’s a bill that House Democrats have now passed four times that aims to help close the gender pay gap in a number of ways:
Prevent companies from asking new employees for salary data from previous jobs in order to set wages Companies do not have to prove wage differentials based on gender. Prevent companies from opposing employees for disclosing their wages to one another. Companies must report wage differences to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission
The gender pay gap remains sizeable and has an overwhelming impact on women of color, as USA Today’s Ledyard King reports:
Women who work full-time year-round earn an average of 82 cents for every dollar men make, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This wage gap is more pronounced among women of color: black women typically earn only 63 cents, Native American women only 60 cents, and Latinas only 55 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
“This vote comes at a time when women, especially women of color, are suffering from the dire economic impact of the pandemic,” said Amanda Brown Lierman, executive director of advocacy group Supermajority, in a statement. “That is why we support the elimination of the filibuster – because it is too often a tactic to block racial justice and justice.”
However, the Republicans have countered the fact that this law imposes too much legal liability on companies and has therefore repeatedly spoken out against the bill.
There are more harsh voices. Later this month, the Senate will vote on the For the People Act, a sweeping Democratic suffrage bill that Manchin rejected. And Schumer also said gun control laws and the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, could soon be on the agenda.
While all of these votes are likely to fail, holding them is meant to be a sign that Democrats are advocating these policies and, like the existing rules, make it nearly impossible to get any of them through.
“This will be completely different from when McConnell was the majority leader,” Schumer told Vox earlier about this legislative period. “He had the legal cemetery. He never had a debate; he never let these bills come to light. “
It remains to be seen whether the outcome of such efforts will differ from McConnell’s. Even successful bills that have had significant GOP influence, like the Endless Frontiers Act, have faced delays and setbacks, and when relatively undisputed proposals like equality for all cannot go through, there seems little hope for polarizing issues like gun control .
Upcoming votes may well show that the Democrats may face their own “legislative graveyard” if they fail to take action to change the filibuster.
There’s still no consensus among the Democrats in the Filibuster
Senate Democrats remain at odds over removing the filibuster, with Manchin and Sinema among the vocal opponents of such a move. “I will not be voting to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” Manchin reiterated in a recent comment in the Charleston Gazette.
Other senators in the Democratic Group recently signaled that they also have reservations about getting rid of the filibuster, although some, including Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Angus King (I-ME), have indicated their willingness to look into it it possibly
It is unclear how much these voices could possibly influence them – if at all. For months, Manchin and Sinema have been emphasizing that they are concentrating on maintaining the filibuster so that the minority in the Senate still has a vote. What repeated failed votes could do is set a record that Democrats can refer to when ultimately tracking rule changes.
It’s an effort that mirrors how the Democrats built reforms to filibuster the nominees in 2013 when Republicans unveiled President Barack Obama’s slow appointments. That year, Democrats voted to abolish the filibuster in most presidential candidates after Obama’s election to Secretary of Defense, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and District Court judges encountered Republican obstacles.
Democrats would have to build the same case to convince cautious moderates of how much rule change really is needed, despite the fact that their slim majority this term leaves no room for members to overflow like 2013. Back then, Manchin was one of three Democrats who voted against the rule change.
He seems intent on keeping the same position – which means the filibuster will likely stay here for the time being.