While many declared and likely Democratic presidential candidates have expressed enthusiastic support for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, and other ambitious progressive policies, 2020 hopefuls have not yet committed to eliminating the archaic filibuster rule in the Senate that—if left intact—would make these priorities virtually impossible to pass.
“As long as the filibuster exists, single-payer, voting rights, and pretty much any meaningful gun control [bills] are off the table.”
—Jordan Weissmann, Slate
In an interview with Politico on Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) became the first 2020 contender to suggest that she is open to scrapping the legislative filibuster, the Senate’s longstanding requirement that all legislation must receive 60 votes before it can proceed through the chamber.
“Everything stays on the table. You keep it all on the table. Don’t take anything off the table,” Warren said when asked if she would support killing the filibuster, which can be eliminated with a simple majority vote—a move known as the “nuclear option.”
But Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who announced he is running for president on Friday, told Politico that he holds the opposite view. Democrats, he said, should not consider touching the filibuster, even though it could give a future GOP Senate minority the power to stonewall progressive legislation.
“We should not be doing anything to mess with the strength of the filibuster,” Booker said. “It’s one of the distinguishing factors of this body. And I think it is good to have the power of the filibuster.”
With the first 2020 presidential primaries just over a year away, progressive commentators and advocacy groups have increasingly stressed how important eliminating the filibuster is to achieving the kinds of bold policy transformations that Democratic candidates say they support—and that the science says are necessary to avert planetary catastrophe.
“Many are talking about big progressive plans. All are empty promises while the filibuster lives,” noted Indivisible co-founder Ezra Levin.
“As long as the filibuster exists, single-payer, voting rights, and pretty much any meaningful gun control [bills] are off the table,” added Slate‘s Jordan Weissmann. “It’s just not even a close question to me. Do you think we need new voting rights legislation in this country? Then you think we need to eliminate the filibuster. Do you think we should pass gun control? Then you think we need to eliminate the filibuster. There’s no choice.”
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