Schumer’s message to Manchin and Sinema on filibuster: ‘To debate and never vote is imbecile’

“This is wrong. In response, Congress must act with the same urgency as it did in 1965,” Carper continues. “I do not come to this decision lightly, but it has become clear to me that if the filibuster is standing in the way of protecting our democracy then the filibuster isn’t working for our democracy. […] No barrier—not even the filibuster—should stand in the way of our sacred obligation to protect our democracy.” Carper might, just might, be someone Manchin would listen to, so one would hope that Carper is indeed talking to him and not just to the rest of us. Because pretty much everyone else who matters has been convinced. Sinema is unlikely to want to stand alone if Manchin turns—she’s got the most electorally to worry about.

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Schumer’s floor speech on Wednesday also pointed the way and tailored a message for Manchin. “This is an old, old fight in this chamber. Over 100 years ago, the great Senator of Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, said that ‘to vote without debating is perilous, but to debate and never vote is imbecile.’” Not that he’s calling Manchin an imbecile, but, well. Anyway, “To vote without debating is perilous, but to debate and never vote is imbecile,” Schumer continued.

“We should heed those words today, and explore whatever paths we have to restore the Senate so it does what its framers intended: debate, deliberate, comprise, and vote.” The focus on debate suggests that Schumer is working on a talking filibuster reform, which is far more than reasonable. “This is too important,” Schumer continued, then inching toward filibuster reform. “We will continue to fight for voting rights and find an alternative path forward, even if it means going at it alone, to defend the most fundamental liberty we have as citizens.”

He’s said “everything is on the table” before, multiple times. Maybe this time, since he said it on the Senate floor right after Manchin’s 10 good people on the Republican side failed to show, maybe this time it’s real and he’s actively trying to make it happen.

Maybe President Joe Biden is helping, or at least open to it. Remember he said last month, “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” adding that it “remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of ‘fundamentally’—on whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.”

Biden said he was worried about losing “at least three votes” on the Build Back Better reconciliation package if he started whipping on the filibuster now. That was an exaggeration—only Manchin and Sinema would possibly try to pull that one.

At this point, just because of that reconciliation bill and then funding the government and raising the debt ceiling and churning through the record-breaking judicial nominations, another stab at voting rights and at eliminating the filibuster—even if just for the issue of voting and elections reforms (along with the 161 other filibuster carve-outs) isn’t imminent. But it still needs to be fast-tracked, and with it, not just the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but also the Freedom to Vote Act Republicans blocked a few weeks ago.

Democracy can’t wait much longer.

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