Top Democrats in the House are spearheading a new effort to convince the Senate to carve out a historic exception to the filibuster that would allow them to push through their marquee voting rights and election reform legislation over unanimous Republican opposition.
The sweeping measure to expand voting rights known as S1 fell victim to a Republican filibuster last month after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his leadership team unified the conference to sink the bill in a party-line vote.
Now, furious at Republicans for weaponizing the filibuster against Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, the House majority whip, James Clyburn, is pushing Senate Democrats to end its use for constitutional measures, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The rare and forceful effort from a member of the House leadership to pressure changes in the Senate underscores the alarm among Democrats that the filibuster may be an insurmountable obstacle as they race to overturn a wave of Republican ballot restrictions.
Ending the use of the filibuster for constitutional measures – and lowering the threshold to pass legislation to a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate – is significant as it would almost certainly pave the way for Democrats to expand voting across the US.
The voting rights and election reform legislation remains of singular importance to Democrats as they seek to counter new voter restrictions in Republican-led states introduced in response to Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 presidential election.
Clyburn’s proposal to change Senate rules is intended to be limited. It would not eliminate the filibuster entirely, and would allow senators in the minority party to continue to deploy the procedural tactic on other types of legislation.
The problem, as Democrats see it, is that Republicans in recent years have all but rewritten Senate rules to force supermajorities even for bills that carry bipartisan support. Filibustering bills, once extremely rare, has now become routine.
The proposal to create an exception to the filibuster for constitutional measures mirrors the exception Democrats carved out for judicial nominations in 2013, after Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s picks for cabinet posts and the federal judiciary.
Clyburn’s proposal is particularly notable, the sources said, since it is broadly supported by the rest of the House Democratic leadership and is considered by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to be the only way to break the logjam in the Senate.
The effort to create exceptions to the filibuster is being led by Clyburn in large part because of the influence he carries with the White House and the affinity he enjoys with Biden on a personal level, the sources said. Clyburn, a South Carolina congressman, was influential in securing his state for Biden in the 2020 race for the Democratic nomination – something that rescued Biden’s campaign from disaster.
When Biden endorsed partial reforms to the filibuster in March, the prospect of Democrats taking action to defang the minority party’s ability to stall legislation, shifted almost overnight from a theoretical question to a possible reality on Capitol…