A filibuster sea-change?
Last week on Friday, March 26, the Spokesman printed an article by Orion Donovan-Smith that brings home to us the controversy over the filibuster in the U.S. Senate: Sen. Patty Murray backs overturning filibuster to pass Democrats’ sweeping voting reform package.
This is a big deal. Patty Murray (D-WA) has served in the U.S. Senate for twenty-nine years. She is the sixth-most senior member of the Senate and the third-most senior Democrat. Often when you see a video clip of Senate Majority Leader Charles (Chuck) Schumer speaking on the Senate floor, you see Senator Murray at her desk right behind him. When Patty Murray indicates a shift in her position on legislation, the shift is well-thought-out.
“The For the People Act is essential to making sure our democracy stays a democracy,” Murray told The Spokesman-Review in a statement, “and I will consider every legislative option, including an exemption to the filibuster, to ensure it can be signed into law.”
Last Thursday the Republican dominated legislature of the State of Georgia passed the most naked act of voter suppression since the Jim Crow laws of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp took pains to sign the bill into law that evening. Operating under the duplicitous banner of unsubstantiated “voter fraud” pushed by Donald Trump the new law:
…requires voters to submit ID information with both an absentee ballot request and the ballot itself. It limits the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, allows for unlimited challenges to a voter’s qualifications, cuts the runoff election period from nine to four weeks, and significantly shortens the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot. (The Guardian)
But the most twisted and petty part of the law, a part that should catch the eye of everyone, is the piece that outlaws giving food or drink to voters, conjuring up an image of long lines of Georgia voters waiting for hours in the hot sun to cast their ballots at a restricted number of polling places. The words of the law are, of course, less obvious, but the anti-democratic effect is clear, when considered in the context of the rest of the restrictions:
“No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector,” the new law states.
The law applies within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter at a polling place. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor. (CNN)
Republican operatives in Georgia were in such a rush to get this law enacted that didn’t pick their words carefully enough to adequately disguise their intent. And, in a final act of anti-democratic transparency, Governor Kemp signed the bill into law attended by six white men standing below an image of a road in a plantation in a state that is nearly a third black. Meanwhile, Black female Georgia State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested, handcuffed, and escorted away by Georgia State troopers for knocking on Governor Kemp’s office door arguing for transparency in the bill signing. (It was an all white closed-door affair.) So much for attempts at political optics.
Surely there will be court challenges to the Georgia law, but the question is whether there will be injunctive relief from the law in time to blunt its effect on the 2022 midterm elections. It should be lost on no one that the election by Georgia’s voters of Raphael Warnock, a Black pastor, and Jon Ossoff, a Jewish investigative journalist, both Democrats, to the U.S. Senate in 2020 is the motivation for Georgia Republicans’ bald-faced anti-democratic power grab.
As long as the Republican minority in the U.S. Senate under Mitch McConnell can stonewall all House-passed legislation with nothing more than the email threat of a filibuster, state-level Republicans anti-voter legislation (all 253 bills) will strangle the ability of Americans to vote.
That’s where Patty Murray’s recent endorsement of “consider[ing] every legislative option, including an exemption to the filibuster” to get the For the People Act passed. The For the People Act would cut short much of these state level Republican efforts to suppress voting by populations that are statistically less likely to vote Republican.
Like every Senator and Representative, Patty Murray tries to keep her finger on the pulse of the people that keep her in public office. She senses a tidal change. As the tide turns those Senate Democrats still reluctant to tinker with the filibuster will feel the tidal pressure, especially for this particular bill.
I used to think one didn’t need to register one’s opinion with an elected official one sensed as being on one’s side. I was wrong. These people do not operate in a vacuum. There has been a concerted effort to encourage Senator Murray to make this announcement. Now is the time to contact her office and register your approval of her stance. Then call Senator Cantwell’s (D-WA) office and urge her to add her voice to the chorus.
Patty Murray (D-WA)
D.C. Office (202) 224-2621
Spokane Office (509) 624-9515
Yakima Office (509) 453-7462
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
D.C. Office (202) 224-3441
Spokane Office (509) 353-2507
Richland Office (509) 946-8106
Senator Maria Cantwell has served in the U.S. Senate since squeaking past two-term incumbent Republican Senator Slade Gorton in November of 2000. She has roundly trounced three subsequent challengers (including current Spokane County Treasurer, Michael Baumgartner, in 2012, 60% to 40%).
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Attributed to “@DearAuntCrabby”: “The cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal is blocking so much important and useful stuff they have decided to rename it ‘The Mitch McConnell.’”
True to form, McConnell is so uncomfortable with the legislation that might be passed if the filibuster thrown out that he threatened a “scorched earth Senate” of partisan gridlock. The best response I’ve read to McConnell’s bluster is:
…the Republican leader’s pitch is burdened by a circular, self-defeating message: McConnell’s core argument is that if Democrats try to pass legislation, he’ll make it more difficult to pass legislation, so they should simply be satisfied doing nothing, or he’ll take steps to make sure they do nothing. (MSNBC)
McConnell himself, in modifying the rules in order to take over the Supreme Court, is the personification of what the Democratic Senate majority must do now. Unless they wish to return to minority status in 2022 the Democrats need to pass the legislation they promised in 2020. First and foremost is the promise to restore voting rights.