House Dems slam 'racist' filibuster blocking 'everything we love,' say Americans 'do not care about procedure'
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A group of House Democrats on Thursday attacked the Senate filibuster at a press conference, saying the 60-vote-hurdle legislation in the upper chamber is "racist" and alleging that Americans don't care about procedure in Congress.
Reps. Cori Bush, D-Mo.; Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.; Jason Crow, D-Colo., and others spoke in front of the Capitol. They discussed a letter circulated among House Democrats pushing Democrats in the Senate to end the filibuster.
"Everything we love is at stake," Bush said. "Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to deny our people not just everything we love, but everything we need."
Bush continued that Americans elected Democrats in Congress "with a mandate to transform this society." Bush alleged that Republicans are blocking legislation on elections, police reform, "common-sense gun control," "making D.C. the 51st state" and more.
"We demand an urgent end to the racial, racist Senate procedural -- this procedural tool," she said. "This tool that blocks us from what we need, what we have to have to survive and to thrive. Blocking us from getting on with the business of protecting the communities that we were elected to serve."
Crow, who represents a suburban Colorado district that elected a Republican as recently as 2016, said moderate Democrats should get on board with the push to end the filibuster as well.
Americans, Crow said, "do not care about arcane Senate rules and procedures. What they care about is ending gun violence" and implementing other policies.
"We have sent bill after bill after bill to that side of the Capitol," Crow said, referencing the Senate, only for the House legislation to be "jammed up by arcane Senate procedures."
Jayapal made similar comments, specifically slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the filibuster's chief defender.
"There is only one thing that blocks us, and it is a procedure. Now no one across the country cares about procedure," Jayapal said.
She noted that the Senate under the GOP majority was called a "graveyard" because legislation passed by the House would not be addressed and said essentially the same thing is still happening due to the filibuster.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) questions Intelligence Committee Minority Counsel Stephen Castor and Intelligence Committee Majority Counsel Daniel Goldman during House impeachment inquiry hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill Dec. 9, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Jayapal spoke Thursday at a press conference aimed at pressuring Democratic senators to end the filibuster. (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
"It's still Mitch McConnell's graveyard because that's what's happening to this legislation," Jayapal added.
Notably, Senate Republicans have not yet actually used the filibuster in this Congress. On the two cloture votes related to legislation the Senate has considered since January -- the vote where a minority has the filibuster power to block a bill from getting to a final vote -- Republicans voted nearly unanimously in favor of the bills. Senate Democratic leadership may be withholding some bills from floor votes due to the fact they would likely be defeated by a filibuster.
Democrats, however, used the filibuster often when Republicans were in the Senate majority. They filibustered GOP efforts to pass coronavirus stimulus bills; police reform; protections for survivors of abortion and more.
McConnell, as Democrats push for the elimination of the filibuster under President Biden, disputes the idea that they have a mandate to pass massive changes without compromising with Republicans, which the filibuster would force them to do.
"Does anyone really believe the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the White House and a 50-50 Senate?" he said in a floor speech recently. "That may be what a few liberal activists want. Does anyone believe that’s what millions of Americans just thought they were electing? Of course it's not."
"There’s so much emphasis on the most extreme bills that either party might pass with a simple majority. People forget that the Senate’s 60-vote threshold is the only reason that any routine, must-pass legislation is bipartisan except during divided government," McConnell said. "Big funding deals. Appropriations bills. Farm bills. Highway bills. The NDAA. The Senate’s 60-vote threshold backstops all of it. It’s not just about controversial items; it’s about everything we do."
More than half of currently sitting Democratic senators signed a letter in 2017 advocating for the preservation of the filibuster. Nearly all of them have either distanced themselves from that position or completely reversed their stance. Among them is Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who was the co-author of that letter with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
The only two Democrats who have vocally supported keeping the filibuster in place are Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. They've each reiterated their stance on the issue this year, including Manchin in a Washington Post op-ed this month.
"There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation," he said.
To end the filibuster, Senate Democrats would need to wind the body into a very particular procedural stance before taking a vote setting a new precedent that it only takes 51 votes, rather than 60, to invoke cloture on a bill and bring it to a final vote. They could do this with all 50 Senate Democrats voting to end the filibuster and Vice President Harris breaking the tie.
Part of House Democrats' pressure campaign against Manchin and Sinema is to pass bills that would stand no chance of clearing a filibuster in the Senate. They will take a step on one of these bills Thursday, voting on legislation to make Washington, D.C., a state.
D.C. statehood is very popular among progressives, and it's expected to gin up support on the left to end the filibuster when Republicans make clear they won't vote for it.
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.