Senate tests will to preserve filibuster with China, January 6 committee votes

WASHINGTON – The Senate has been mulling over the future of filibuster for months, but Thursday’s votes could finally shift this discussion from theoretical to practical, and supporters of lowering the 60-vote threshold believe it could fuel their cause.

Two major pieces of legislation before the Senate could be blocked this week by Republicans, the first time filibuster has been invoked since Democrats took control of the Senate in January.

“My colleagues have a theory that filibuster promotes two-party politics,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Told NBC News. “You have to test this theory. I hope they are right. “

This raises the political and practical issues for the Senate Democrats’ internal debate on how to deal with filibuster and their calculations of whether Republicans, who are in the minority, are ready to reach the other side of the aisle. .

And that could have ramifications for President Joe Biden’s platform and whether he spends his term signing a law or spinning the wheels in Congress.

Senator Chris Murphy speaks on Capitol Hill, May 26, 2021.Stefani Reynolds / AP

The Senate has been working for two weeks on the US bipartisan law on innovation and competition, a bill aimed at improving competitiveness with China. But late opposition from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could rally Republicans to block the bill.

The Senate is due to hold a series of votes Thursday on the Chinese bill. Depending on the result, they could vote on the January 6 commission afterwards.

Chinese law stalemate comes as Democrats are also blocked by Republicans on creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill, potentially setting up the session’s first two filibusters. In progress.

The confluence of the two issues comes at a critical time, when bipartisan negotiations are underway on a variety of issues, including infrastructure, police reform, gun control and immigration. Senators and aides say action in the Senate this week could determine whether bipartisanship on these issues is possible.

“What they’re going to do and how cooperative they’ll be has an impact on the willingness to cooperate on the next thing,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Said.

China’s Competitiveness Bill was the first recent attempt to legislate using regular order. The basis for the legislation, drafted by Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Indiana Senator Todd Young, allowed for a relatively open process to amend the bill and appeared to be on a slippery path toward passage. The Senate has so far voted on 14 Republican amendments and four Democratic amendments.

Young was just one of many Republicans who applauded the Schumer-led process.

“Look, we’ve had bipartisan amendments proposed throughout the committee process, bipartisan amendments proposed last week, bipartisan amendments proposed this week,” he said. “I don’t remember when this happened since I have been in the United States Senate.”

Young was elected to the Senate in 2016 when Republicans complained privately and Democrats publicly about the lack of Senate legislation under McConnell.

McConnell has been lukewarm on the Chinese bill. He did not lend his support behind this and told his members not to be in a rush to adopt him, Senator Kevin Cramer, RN.D., said in an interview.

Late Wednesday after a meeting for their weekly closed-door lunch, Senate Republicans emerged and several indicated they likely would not vote to allow the bill to head to a final vote.

“I told Senator Schumer that we need more amendments,” said Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas. He insisted that Republicans don’t want to kill the bill but are not ready to vote for him.

‘My favorite philosopher, Mick Jagger’

Democrats see the Chinese bill as the test of bipartisan cooperation.

They argue that if China’s competitiveness bill, which has been a bipartisan priority, cannot be blocked, then the prospects for further high-level negotiations are slim, especially on infrastructure.

“If the minority party can put so much work into this bill and blow it up at the last minute due to some process issues, that would be an indictment of the state of the current Senate,” Murphy said.

The impasse, which could be broken before the Senate leaves town for the holiday weekend and for a holiday week, is unfolding in the shadow of the partisan spirit behind the creation of a commission to ‘to investigate the events leading up to January 6, a vote that could further disrupt the cooperation of the Senate.

“I would think we could all – you would like to think reasonably in common sense that we could all agree on this,” said Senator Joe Manchin, DW.V.

But Republicans are unlikely to agree.

McConnell on Tuesday called the formation of a commission a “purely political exercise.”

Only three – the senses. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – have said they will vote to advance legislation and break a filibuster.

Supporters of abolishing filibuster say the committee’s vote proves the Senate is not working, a message that could be amplified if the Chinese bill fails.

Manchin, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Are opposed to clearing the filibuster. Realizing the pressure their party is exerting on the issue, the duo released a statement this week urging Republicans to come to the table and vote for the commission.

“And to quote my favorite philosopher Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want. But if you try a little while you might find that you get what you need, ”Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in an interview. “This is how this process is supposed to work.”

‘The fate of our democracy’

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., said he is already convinced Republicans are not acting in good faith, but it is not clear “when that same switch is rocking in the minds of my colleagues. “

“I hope and would expect that at some point, when faced with smug behavior, even the hardest heart will soften,” he said.

And the buccaneers to come will lead to what progressive activists like Adam Jentleson, former Senate aide and author of a book critical of filibustering, will call “act two” of debate. It will no longer be moot – senators will be able to see which laws are blocked by the super-majority threshold.

“It certainly forces the problem,” Jentleson said. “We don’t have a lot of time to chase the fantasies of turning 60 on things like the right to vote. Seeing Republicans filibustering this bill should accelerate Democrats’ awareness that the fate of our democracy rests on whether they end filibustering.

“If we can’t even get a bipartisan commission to investigate an insurgency, then the filibuster must go,” said Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Said failure to approve an independent commission to investigate the “insurgency” would illustrate to Democrats that Republicans are not interested in protecting the country.

“If the Jan. 6 commission can’t go through the Senate, that’s further proof of how filibuster under Mitch McConnell is strangling our democracy,” she said.

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