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The Senate filibuster doesn’t appear to be going away

Senate leaders on both sides of the partisan aisle appear to have moved passed a debate over eliminating the filibuster that had caused a standstill in the chamber

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., heads to an interview on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.
Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Bipartisan leaders in the Senate appear to be moving forward with a “power-sharing agreement” in the chamber after Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky cited two Democrats who also disapprove of eliminating the filibuster from part of Senate procedure.

The agreement would be similar to that used during the 107th Congress in 2001 when the Senate was equally split — as is the case now.

The Republican minority leader said Monday night that he was ready to move forward “with a power-sharing agreement modeled on the (2001) precedent” because a pair of Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — said earlier in the day that they were opposed to eliminating the filibuster, The Washington Post reported.

The filibuster is a procedural tool that allows a lawmaker, presumably from the minority opinion, to block or delay legislation until 60 or more senators agree to move forward with the lawmaking process. Without the filibuster, the majority party could present and vote on legislation with a simple majority — which in the current Congress, would benefit Democrats.

“We’re glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand,” said Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Monday night, The Associated Press reported. “We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”

“Schumer had previously urged McConnell to adopt a resolution similar to the 2001 agreement,” Politico wrote, but the minority leader “insisted that Democrats needed to provide some reassurance that the 60-vote threshold for most major legislation would remain” — as had been the case in 2001.

The standstill had stopped the Senate from organizing committee assignments and resources in the chamber, according to The Associated Press.

After the 2020 general election and a pair of runoff elections in Georgia earlier this month, the Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. But with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, Democrats now control the chamber. The Senate was equally split in 2001, with Republicans in the majority because of Vice President Dick Cheney presiding.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

According to the Post, Manchin and Sinema had spoken positively of keeping the filibuster in the past, so the recent expression of their opinion was no surprise to their colleagues.

“But their statements appear to have reassured Republicans amid growing calls from outside groups and members of the Senate Democratic caucus to nix the 60-vote filibuster,” The Hill wrote.

President Joe Biden, a former senator for over three decades, said during his campaign that he would like to keep the filibuster, “unless GOP resistance to his legislative agenda made eliminating it necessary,” The Wall Street Journal wrote.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week that Biden’s “position hasn’t changed,” the Journal reported.