Democrats hate filibuster now but used it to block GOP legislation under Trump

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Congressional Democrats are pushing to eliminate the Senate filibuster, which progressives paint as a tool of racism, after making liberal use of the filibuster in 2020.


“Understand this: The filibuster gives veto power to Mitch McConnell. And to the gun industry,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter on Feb. 26. “And to the oil industry. For generations, racist senators used the filibuster to block anti-lynching laws and civil rights bills. It’s still blocking progress today. It’s got to go.”

However, Senate Democrats had no problem using the filibuster when the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, meant to mandate` care be provided for babies that survive an abortion attempt, was being pushed by Senate Republicans. Forty-one Democratic senators voted to block the born-alive bill by filibustering the legislation and preventing it from advancing to a floor vote. 

In addition, Senate Democrats filibustered Republican’s $500 billion coronavirus relief bill in September after blocking Republicans on a procedural vote for a separate $1.6 trillion coronavirus relief package twice in March 2020. Senate Democrats blocked a vote on then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s $500 billion coronavirus relief bill in October as well.

Senate Democrats also blocked debate on a Republican-authored police reform bill they said did not go far enough in June.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Progressives renewed their push to kill the Senate filibuster in February after a ruling from the parliamentarian dealt a major blow to their efforts to include a $15-an-hour minimum-wage increase in the coronavirus relief bill.

In the wake of the ruling, progressive lawmakers began suggesting alternative routes to increasing the minimum wage — including eliminating the filibuster, which requires lawmakers to secure a 60-vote threshold for most legislation unrelated to the budget.

“The filibuster is not in the Constitution,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., wrote on Twitter on Monday. “It was the tool used by segregationists to uphold segregation. And it needs to be abolished.”


Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has seen his influence grow dramatically in recent months, responded emphatically on Monday when asked if he would ever waver in his support of the procedural tool known as the filibuster.

“Never!” he told Fox News. “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about never?”

Manchin’s opinion on the filibuster is important because the Senate is evenly split 50-50, with the deciding vote going to Vice President Harris. There must be a 60-vote threshold to advance most legislation to President Biden’s desk.

Progressive Democrats see the filibuster as an outdated relic that can be used by the minority Republican Party under McConnell to derail Biden’s agenda, and they want to do away with it. They point to the way the filibuster was wielded during the 20th century to stall civil rights legislation, and warn of a repeat.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)arrives for the impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill January 30, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell —after learning about Manchin’s and Sinema’s opinions last month — set aside his demand that a provision preserving the legislative filibuster be included in his power-sharing agreement with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The two moderate Democrats’ opposition to removing the filibuster almost certainly means that their party, many of whom have said they want to get rid of the legislative hurdle, won’t be able to do so for at least the next two years.


The Senate describes the filibuster as an “informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions” on its website.

FOX Business’ Megan Henney, Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche, Bradford Betz and Tyler Olson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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