Schumer seizes the moment to force Manchin and Sinema to take a side on democracy


Schumer is trying, albeit a little late in the day. At the regular caucus lunch Tuesday (held virtually because of COVID-19), Schumer brought on the authors of How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, to talk about their research and the urgency of passing this legislation. Whether Sinema and Manchin were to attend, or to pay attention if they did log in, is the question.

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President Joe Biden is getting in on the effort as well, telling the nation that he supports ending the filibuster on voting rights and elections reforms. “The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden will say according to his prepared remarks. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand.”

Given that Manchin has failed to comprehend the events of Jan. 6, 2021 or to learn the history of the filibuster—which has been reiterated time and time again in public, in the nation’s leading newspapers, and undoubtedly directly to him by his colleagues—and he is still out there lying about it, he’s unlikely to be swayed by the scholars or by Biden. Sinema is similar. She reiterated her opposition to change the procedure in last week’s luncheon, according to other Democratic senators in attendance.

Both are opposed to a carve-out of the filibuster for voting rights (along with the 160+ other carve-outs the Senate has approved in the last several decades) but say that they are amenable to other changes, which would be great news. It could mean that the filibuster on legislation could be reformed so that all sorts of good things could pass, if Republicans had to work really hard to block them.

However, that too is a ruse from Manchin, who insists that these changes can only be made with two-thirds of the Senate approving—a rules change through regular order rather than “going nuclear,” which is how Democrats ended McConnell’s blockade of President Barack Obama’s lower court and executive nominees and how McConnell really blew shit up by ending it for Supreme Court nominees for Donald Trump.

The nuclear option can be done with 51 votes, which of course in a 50-50 Senate requires Manchin, Sinema, and Vice President Kamala Harris. Schumer has 49 votes, or he wouldn’t be making this threat and putting those two on the spot.

Manchin refuses to even consider that option, insisting that there have to be 17 Republicans joining Democrats to make the body function again because Manchin still insists on pretending that bipartisanship can be a thing with the party that is controlled by Donald Trump and has embraced the Big Lie even after Trump tried to get them all killed a year ago.

All this to say that barring a miracle in which Manchin and Sinema grow some patriotism and principles, the filibuster will not be broken Wednesday. Democracy will not be saved by the Senate. What comes after isn’t clear.

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