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Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Thursday joined the growing chorus of Democrats calling for reforms to the Senate’s longstanding 60-vote threshold for passing legislation, arguing that congressional gridlock is preventing America from being globally competitive.
“For the sake of our vulnerable populations, for the sake of America doing big things again, the filibuster has to be reformed,” Booker said in an interview with HuffPost.
Booker declined to specify what type of reforms he’d like to see made to the filibuster, saying that would be determined by “people like [West Virginia Sen.] Joe Manchin and the others that are not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster.”
As a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Booker was initially a fierce defender of the filibuster, citing the need to block policies targeting minority communities under then-President Donald Trump and amid total Republican control of government.
“Having lived my life as a minority, I like minority rights … They would have hurt people in my community,” Booker said at the time.
Booker later signaled his openness to changes, however, and sounds a bit more supportive of nixing the rule now that Trump is out of office. His stance is further evidence of shifts within the Democratic Party regarding broader institutional changes in the Senate. Democrats know much of their legislative agenda stands little to no chance of passing with the filibuster in place.
Some Democratic senators have expressed support of a filibuster carve-out for voting and civil rights legislation. Others have suggested they’d support reforms that stop short of outright repealing the rule ― such as requiring senators waging filibusters to actually talk at length on the Senate floor to sustain them, something that isn’t the case currently.
The future of the rule will ultimately depend on moderate Democrats like Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and President Joe Biden.
“We’ve got to be reasonable and responsible,” Manchin told reporters Thursday when asked whether he’s worried that voters will be disappointed if Biden’s agenda is stalled in Congress.
If voters who are willing to throw out the filibuster “think it’s their way or the highway,” Manchin said, “that’s not going to happen.”
The prospect of bipartisan action in an evenly divided Senate, where Democrats will need at least 10 Republicans to join them to pass most legislation, seems unlikely for an administration that has proposed a long list of progressive solutions to gun violence, immigration, climate and infrastructure.
Reform advocates are hopeful that with growing momentum in the Democratic caucus and evidence of Republican obstruction continuing to pile up, the entire party will eventually get on board with changes to the filibuster.
“Today more senators are willing to question the role filibuster plays when Mitch McConnell is determined to block everything that President Biden is trying to do,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted on Thursday, acknowledging that more Democrats have joined the effort than ever before.
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