Changes are urgently needed to advance “vital” proposals like voting rights legislation, Wisconsin lawmaker says.
A day after US Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping voting rights bill, Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin said “all options are on the table” to alter or eliminate the filibuster in order to bypass GOP obstruction.
“I don’t want the minority party to be able to call all the shots and block all the progress that we want to make,” Baldwin said Wednesday in an interview with UpNorthNews. “So, I’m ready for [filibuster] reform.”
Any senator can start a filibuster to block a vote. Breaking a filibuster requires 60 votes, meaning Democrats, who currently hold 50 seats, need to convince 10 Republicans to break from their party to pass any remotely controversial legislation—a nearly impossible task in today’s deeply partisan political climate.
Practically speaking, this means the minority party can indefinitely block any and all legislation.
In the months since Democrats took control of the House, Senate, and White House, Republicans have used the filibuster to block action on hot-button topics including voting rights, police reform, and a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.
On Tuesday, Republicans used the filibuster to prevent debate—let alone a vote—on the For the People Act. The bill would override hundreds of restrictive voting bills currently being passed in Republican-led states around the country—including almost a dozen such bills in Wisconsin—strengthen voting rights, ban gerrymandering in federal elections, and reform campaign finance policies.
Baldwin called these “urgent” issues.
“I see our democracy and voting rights under assault right now,” Baldwin said.
She continued, “When we continue to see this partisan blocking, partisan obstacles, placed in the way of progress, I think we have to re-examine our rules.”
Currently, the filibuster can be used indefinitely, with no requirement for doing so other than a senator announcing an objection. Some Democrats have proposed eliminating the filibuster entirely, which would allow them to pass legislation with 51 votes using Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker. A more moderate option would be to restore the “talking filibuster,” which would require objecting senators to talk on the Senate floor for the filibuster to stand.
An April Monmouth University poll found almost 60% of Americans support changing the filibuster, with 38% supporting reform and 19% favoring outright elimination of the rule. A March poll from Vox and Data for Progress found a majority of respondents support altering the filibuster to pass legislation such as gun control, the For the People Act, and a minimum wage increase.
Baldwin said she is open to either option.
Changing the procedure would require all Democrats to vote in favor. However, moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have remained resistant to any sort of change to the filibuster, leaving Democrats two votes shy of the necessary vote.
Asked about Manchin and Sinema’s opposition, Baldwin said she believes “some of my colleagues are likely to change their views” as they see missed opportunities to advance key Democratic goals.
But Baldwin made clear she puts the blame for obstruction on the 50 Republicans who use the filibuster, not the two Democrats who oppose reform.
“I think that it will be clear … to the American people who’s stopping progress,” she said.