Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) dealt a major setback to progressives on Monday in their efforts to abolish the filibuster in the United States Senate.
Sinema, a moderate who holds the Senate seat once occupied by the late John McCain, told Washington Post, through her office, that she was opposed to eliminating the legislative procedure.
“Kyrsten is against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster,” a spokesperson for the senator relayed to the outlet when asked about the topic.
The filibuster, which requires three-fifths of the chamber—usually 60 votes—to end debate on a piece of legislation, has become a point of contention between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
McConnell and Republicans are requesting that any agreement on how to organize the newly elected chamber, in which each party will have exactly 50 seats, includes a provision protecting the filibuster. Schumer, who only retains the title of majority leader because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, has refused to commit to such a deal.
The New York lawmaker and other members of the Democrat conference have argued that while they have no current plans to discard the filibuster, it would be a mistake to admit as much. Senate Democrats, in particular, seem to believe that as long as the threat of abolishing the filibuster remains in place, it will keep Republicans from overzealously obstructing Biden’s agenda.
Progressives, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have argued that swift action on liberal priorities, including immigration reform and expanded access to abortion, cannot move forward while the filibuster is in place. Moderates, on the other hand, have defended the rule, claiming the limitation it imposes on majority rule is the “entire premise” of constitutional democracy.
Sinema, herself, made such an argument to Politico during an interview for an October 2019 profile chronicling her rise to the Senate.
“They will not get my vote on [nuking the filibuster],” she told the outlet. “In fact, whether I’m in the majority or the minority I would always vote to reinstate the protections for the minority. … It is the right thing for the country.”
Sinema’s reaffirmation of that position on Monday means that Senate Democrats likely do not have the votes to jettison the filibuster, if they were so disposed. With only 50 seats in the chamber, the party would need their entire conference to support a major change to the Senate rules.
The Arizona senator’s pronouncement comes only days after the Biden White House also signaled its opposition to any attempt to discard the filibuster.