Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) infuriated progressive activists and pundits Tuesday by reiterating her opposition to nuking the Senate filibuster in an op-ed warning of the consequences of doing so.
The timing of her Washington Post op-ed, which predicts "repeated radical reversals" of federal law without the filibuster, coincides with an expected vote in the Senate to consider the "For the People Act," a Democratic bill that would overhaul U.S. elections. Republicans in the Senate will block the bill by ensuring that it does not meet the 60-vote threshold to advance to a vote on passage. Progressives believe the legislation is vital to undo Republican election integrity reforms at the state level and have called on Democrats to abolish the legislative filibuster to pass the "For the People Act" and other progressive priorities.
"To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the minority?" Sinema wrote, acknowledging that without the filibuster a future Republican majority could easily reverse any accomplishments Biden achieves in the short term.
"This question is less about the immediate results from any of these Democratic or Republican goals — it is the likelihood of repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty, deepening divisions and further eroding Americans' confidence in our government," she warned.
So far, 18 Senate Democrats have publicly supported abolishing the filibuster, while another 27 senators have expressed openness to considering reforms. Sinema reminded her colleagues that just four years ago, when Donald Trump was the president, 31 Democrats signed a letter opposing elimination of the filibuster.
"I share the belief expressed in 2017 by 31 Senate Democrats opposing elimination of the filibuster — a belief shared by President Biden," she wrote. "While I am confident that several senators in my party still share that belief, the Senate has not held a debate on the matter."
Sinema is joined in opposition to abolishing the filibuster by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) who has fended off harassing questions from reporters on whether he'll change his position over and over again. The reality for Democrats is there are not enough votes to end the filibuster, which means they will have to compromise and win Republican support for Biden's major initiatives.
Manchin has proposed an alternative election reform bill that includes several concessions meant to appease Republicans like a national voter ID requirement, but so far it appears no Republican will support an expanded role for the federal government in U.S. elections.