When President Joe Biden recently spoke to folks in Atlanta, Georgia, to let them know that his patience had run out with the filibuster, the Fourth Estate went into overdrive to explain why, despite his past support of the 60-vote threshold, now was the right moment to scrap the much-used Senate mechanism. For many in the Democratic Party, this was the moment they had been waiting for – a chance to pass legislation without the need for bipartisanship. But certain notable Dems had other ideas. And with those notions, removing the filibuster became merely the latest failing for a president stuck on the ropes.
No Path Forward
Mere days after Biden’s plea in Atlanta, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) dealt a death blow to Biden’s hopes for passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act when she denounced the scuppering of the filibuster on the Senate floor.
“There’s no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy,” Sinema told the Senate. “This week’s harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year.”
Her sentiments were echoed by fellow Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said, “there has been broad bipartisan support for protecting the filibuster, including current and former members of the Senate.” He continued:
“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel onto the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart – especially when one party controls both Congress and the White House. As such, and as I have said many times before, I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.”
And with that, the 50 Democrat votes become 48. Even with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaker, the attempt to scrap the filibuster is dead in the water.
Shortly after a Jan. 13 meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, meant to persuade them to drop the filibuster, the president spoke with reporters lamenting his inability to push forward. He said, “First of all, don’t ask questions about complicated subjects like, ‘Can you get this done?’ I hope we can get this done. The honest to God answer is, I don’t know whether we can get this done.”
Look! A Squirrel
With Biden’s admission of defeat, the White House team was quick to try and turn focus towards more positive news, releasing a fact sheet on how well the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package is fairing after 60 days. And yet, even this falls flat.
For a fact sheet, it is remarkably light on facts. It notes that Biden has visited a bridge that needs repairs and had a photo op at an electric vehicle plant, with little else besides. A number of agencies have announced simply that they intend to spend the taxpayer money or form committees to decide how best to use said funds.
Concerned citizens may well wonder why this massive spending package was demanded with such urgency when a snail’s pace approach to its rollout has followed.
No Good Outcomes for Joe Biden
Despite passing along party lines in the House, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act cannot proceed in the Senate under the current predicament. The internecine demonization of Sens. Manchin and Sinema all but guarantee they will stick to their guns on protecting the filibuster. So where does that leave Joe Biden?
Like a punch drunk boxer reveling in tales of former glory, the president must base both the rest of his time in office and his fight for congressional election success on the heyday of his first few months at the helm. He strove for a lasting legacy, but, like Icarus, flew too close to the sun in the name of hubris and the fevered dreams of unchecked power.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.