Arizona Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Thursday drove the final nail into the coffin of Democratic ambitions to overhaul U.S. elections this year, declaring in a memorable speech that she will not now, or ever, vote with her party to end the Senate's 60-vote filibuster requirement.
Restating her commitment to supporting the three-fifths vote requirement to end debate and pass legislation, the Democrat accused both her own party and Republicans of equally contributing to "spiraling division" that prevents Congress from debate and compromise.
"These deepening divisions hurt our ability to work together. ... Americans across the country know this. They see it every day, not only on social media and cable news, but at their jobs and around dinner tables," Sinema said. "We are divided. It is more likely today that we look at other Americans who have different views and see the other or even see them as enemies instead of as fellow countrymen and women who share our core values."
While the progressive senator said she supports two Democratic bills that would overhaul U.S. elections and overwrite Republican-backed state election integrity laws, she reaffirmed that she "will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division" by changing the Senate's rules for a temporary partisan advantage.
"There's no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There's no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy," Sinema said. "This week's harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year."
Continuing, she said, "But what is the legislative filibuster, other than a tool that requires new federal policy to be broadly supported by senators, representing the broader cross-section of Americans? ... Demands to eliminate this threshold from whichever party holds the fleeting majority amount to a group of people separated on two sides of a canyon, shouting that solution to their colleagues."
The immediate political ramifications of this speech are that President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) can no longer pretend an upcoming vote to end the filibuster and pass the so-called Freedom to Vote Act will matter. With continued Republican opposition to that bill and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and without Sinema's support to end the filibuster, the bills are dead in a 50-50 Senate, and there is nothing Democrats can do about it.
Adding insult to the injury to Schumer's plans, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told reporters Sinema's speech was "very good, excellent."
“I think it’s the points that I’ve been making for an awful long time and she has too,” he said, according to CNN.
At least two Senate Democrats won't budge on the filibuster, and there are likely more with the same position who have remained quiet to avoid upsetting their voters.