Sinema Torpedos Biden's Push to Nuke Filibuster for Voting Rights Legislation


Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) says that while she supports voting rights legislation, she is standing firm in her opposition to making changes to the 60 vote threshold in the Senate.

In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Sinema said, “I share the concerns of civil right advocates and others I’ve heard from in recent months about these state laws. I strongly support those efforts to contest these laws in court and to invest significant resources into these states to better organize and stop efforts to restrict access at the ballot box.”

“And I strongly support and will continue to vote for legislative responses to address these state laws, including the Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that the Senate is currently considering,” she continued.

She went on:

“These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the disease itself. And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

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The Arizona senator argued, “The debate over the 60 vote threshold shines a light on our broader challenges.”

“There’s no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60 vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role protecting our country from wild reversals in federal policy. It is a view I’ve held during my years serving in both the U.S. House and the Senate. And it is the view I continue to hold,” she added.

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Sinema also criticized “this week’s harried discussions about Senate rules” as a “poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year.”

She also said she wished that there was a “more serious effort on the part of Democratic leaders to sit down with the other party and reforge common ground on these issues.”

The Arizona senator’s speech came roughly an hour before President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet with Democratic senators to urge them to make changes to the filibuster rules so they can advance voting rights legislation with just 51 votes.

The filibuster is a procedural hurdle that requires 60 votes for bills to pass the Senate. In a 50-50 Senate, that means at least 10 Republicans would need to join Democrats for legislation to pass the chamber.

However, after Republicans repeatedly blocked voting rights legislation last year, Biden is calling for senators to change the filibuster rules “whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.”

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Changing the filibuster would require all 50 Democrats to vote for the move and would let them advance legislation with just 51 votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Without Sinema’s support for changing the rules, they would lack the votes to do so.

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