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Explaining the Senate’s ‘nuclear option’ for the filibuster

Jan 12, 2022


Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has single-handedly spiked the Democrats’ social spending bill. Now President Joe Biden has indicated he is done trying to privately coax lawmakers to agree to changes.

“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I’m tired of being quiet,” Biden said.

Democrats, with Biden’s blessing, plan to scrap or at least limit the use of the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised a first vote on election bills by Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A vote on the rules change could come this week, although it appears it is headed toward a defeat. Sen. Manchin has said he won’t move the 60-vote threshold without Republican support. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has opposed changing the rules, as well.

Once a rarity, the filibuster is now routinely invoked. In recent months, Republicans have used it to block voting-rights bills and bring the United States perilously close to a crippling debt default.

Critics say the filibuster is an anti-democratic hurdle that prevents Washington from addressing pressing problems.

Supporters say it forces lawmakers to seek consensus, serves as an important check on the party in power and ensures that major laws that affect American life don’t change radically with every election.

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