In a closely divided Senate, the filibuster is a major obstacle to passing any remotely contentious legislation.
But it need not be a death knell.
The Senate’s majority party has routinely worked around the filibuster by passing new laws via a process called budget reconciliation, which allows a simple 51 vote majority to approve legislation that changes spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit. The GOP used budget reconciliation to pass Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, for example.
The Senate can also temporarily change its rules with a simple majority in order suspend the filibuster. Sen. Mitch McConnell, then the Majority Leader, spearheaded a filibuster carveout in 2017 to help Trump’s Supreme Court nominees get confirmed. Democrats also chose this approach in December to expand the nation’s borrowing limit.
Earlier this week, President Biden echoed a sentiment long expressed by voting rights activists when he called for Democrats to once again suspend the filibuster in order to pass a pair of voting rights bills.
By that effort faded fast. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, two centrists Democrats, indicated that they oppose any changes to the filibuster status quo.
“I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division in our country,” Sinema said on Wednesday. “Some have given up on the goal of easing our divisions and uniting Americans. I have not.”
That led Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat, to tweet out our quote of the day: