This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss Kyrsten Sinema’s op-ed, the ridiculous infrastructure talks, and the Sheldon Whitehouse beach club scandal. Listen below, of follow this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.
At New York magazine, Jonathan Chait argues that Kyrsten Sinema’s position on the filibuster is irrational because the current exceptions to the 60-vote threshold undermine the efficacy of her case:
Almost every specific example she cites here as a possible or actual grounds of defense by the filibuster cannot be protected by the filibuster.
The reason is that the Senate has work-arounds for the filibuster. One is for confirmation of judges or executive-branch appointments. The other is for bills that change taxes and spending. The latter, called budget reconciliation, can be passed with 51 votes.
Almost every program Sinema cites above is a spending program that can be defunded through budget reconciliation: women’s health, aid to children and families in need, health care, Medicaid, Medicare, women’s reproductive services, funding for federal agencies to protect the environment and education. Several of them have been targeted in budget reconciliation bills
This would be a good argument were it not for the fact that Kyrsten Sinema has said that she wants to get rid of those “work-arounds.” As she told Burgess Everett back in March: “I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate’s work.” That includes “confirmation of judges or executive-branch appointments” and “bills that change taxes and spending.”
It is true that, at the moment, Sinema is unlikely to achieve this goal. But she’d be even less likely to do so — or to engender the change in Senate “behavior” that she talks about so often — if she were to consent to the wholesale abolition of the very system she hopes to expand.
Today, Garrett Haake, a Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News, asked Arizona’s Senator Sinema a question — or more, the specifically, the question:
GH: Senator, what do you say to Democrats who are disappointed by your op-ed about the filibuster, and feeling like maybe they could still change your mind?
What does she say? Only yesterday, the senator penned an op-ed in the Washington Post unequivocally staking out her position on the issue. I can’t think of any instance in the past 20 years of writing about politics in which elected officials took a stance — not only in an op-ed, but in interviews and statements — who was then hounded daily on whether they would reverse course. Sinema has never even intimated that she’s pondering a change of heart. Back in January, Sinema’s office released a statement declaring she was “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind.”
They’ll keep asking until they get the answer they want. Why won’t reporters ask Dick Durbin, who argued in 2018 that abolishing the filibuster “would be the end of the Senate,” if he is going to change his mind again? Ask him every day. Why not ask any one of the 31 senators who signed a letter defending the filibuster in 2018 if they are going to change their minds back? When Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski opposed Republican efforts to overturn Obamacare, they were treated as fearless mavericks. Not once, as far as I can tell, did any reporter ask them if they might be open to changing their minds. When Mitch McConnell rebuffed Donald Trump’s calls to eliminate the legislative filibuster, no one in the media asked the majority leader if he was going change his mind.
Why is this issue so special? The entire line of filibuster questioning — really, this badgering — is a proxy campaign waged for the Democratic Party. It’s not only a way to incessantly pester those who oppose blowing up Senate norms, it’s also meant to create the perception that filibuster “reform” is a vital issue and an inevitability. There’s no other way to interpret it.