Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said something has to be done to change the legislative filibuster but he wouldn’t go as far as scrapping the 60-vote threshold entirely.
Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block debate last week on a Democrat-backed election reform measure that they believe will counter legislation approved by GOP-led state legislatures that would enhance voter ID measures, and limit absentee and mail-in ballots.
The chamber’s 60-vote rule also threatens to scuttle President Biden’s trillion-dollar spending plan that Republicans have criticized as an extension of the country’s social safety net that will make the country more dependent on handouts from the federal government.
“I’m not really ready to say ‘Let’s get rid of it altogether’ because I think there are circumstances where it makes sense. So I prefer some alternatives to what the present rule is. I’d like to restore the Senate to what it was, where we actually had debates and people had to hold the floor,” King (I-Maine) said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“And so I think some kind of a talking filibuster, perhaps a rule that instead of having to have 60 votes to pass something, you’d have to have 41 votes to stop it. So that way, the minority would at least have to show up. One of the problems now is they don’t even have to show up, they don’t have to speak, they don’t have to do anything, it just sort of becomes an automatic supermajority requirement, which isn’t in the Constitution,” he continued.
He said the filibuster rule is preventing the Senate from acting on legislation.
“So we’ve got to do something about this, at least when it comes to something as crucial as democracy itself, as voting rights,” King said.
To change the filibuster in the 50-50 divided Senate, Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia would have to be on board, but so far they are not.
NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell asked King if Manchin and Sinema would ultimately vote to remove it so voting rights legislation could be approved.
“I’ve talked to both of them. I can’t say for sure. I don’t want to read minds here. I know that both of them have resisted it, as have I, because once you monkey with the rule, then it’s going to work both ways. It’s going to come back and it could come back to bite those who want to move things forward right now,” he said, adding that “today’s obnoxious obstruction tomorrow could be a precious shield.”
He said he thinks Sinema and Manchin, a former secretary of state in West Virginia who helped bring the voting right bill to the floor that GOP members blocked, will eventually come around.
”I think Joe might be ready to listen to, not an abolition of the filibuster, but some modification to make it, to allow us to move forward to give the minority all the rights in the world to speak, to debate, to make their points,” King said.