Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Monday that a power-sharing agreement in the Senate no longer needs to stipulate that the filibuster rule remain intact after two Senate Democrats confirmed they would not support abolishing it.
“I’m glad that two Senate Democrats confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster,” McConnell stated. “They agree with President Biden and me on protecting the Senate. With this win, we can move forward with a 50-50 power-sharing agreement built on the 2001 precedent”:
I’m glad that two Senate Democrats confirmed today they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden and me on protecting the Senate.
With this win, we can move forward with a 50-50 power-sharing agreement built on the 2001 precedent. pic.twitter.com/fHUCFxxXh8
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) January 26, 2021
The filibuster, a rule that requires three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 votes, to close debate on major legislation, had become a point of contention as McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) work out a plan to organize the upper chamber, which is tied 50–50 between Republicans and Democrats. The last time the Senate was tied, in 2001, a similar plan was used to distribute authority among the chamber and its committees.
McConnell explained that because two Senate Democrats publicly opposed abolishing the filibuster, which ultimately vanquishes any Democrat hopes of doing away with the rule, and because President Joe Biden continues to also oppose getting rid of it, the two leaders could continue developing their agreement.
“The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001,” McConnell said. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent.”
On Monday, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) both signaled they would not support abolishing the filibuster.
“Kyrsten is against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster,” a spokesperson for Sinema told the Washington Post.
Manchin told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill that he does not support going “nuclear,” that is, ending the filibuster rule, according to the Hill. “I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition. It’s not who I am,” Manchin said.
Some in the Democrat Party’s more progressive wing have called for changing the filibuster rule, arguing it slows their ability to accomplish their priorities given the feature allows the minority party to stall legislation indefinitely. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has said the filibuster is a rule that has been used to “block progress on racial justice,” while former President Barack Obama once called it a “Jim Crow relic.”
More moderate Democrats like Sinema and Manchin have sought to protect the tool for the minority party. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), another moderate, has noted that the country benefits from the forced bipartisanship on key bills.
Schumer, in his new leadership role, has been adamant that Democrats have the final say in how a Senate power-sharing agreement should proceed, which includes keeping the nuclear option on the table.
“We’re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand,” Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said, per Politico. “We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”