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Sinema reiterates opposition to eliminating filibuster, probably dooming Democrats? voting rights push

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The New York Times
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Democrats’ hopes of finally pushing through voting rights legislation after months of Republican opposition appeared to be fatally wounded Thursday after two Democratic senators announced they would not support changing Senate rules that have long allowed a minority of senators to block legislation.Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) outlined her position in a midday floor speech that echoed her previous public statements where she defended the filibuster, the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule, as a tool to facilitate bipartisan cooperation and guard against wild swings in federal policy.But the circumstances in which she reiterated it — as Senate Democratic leaders prepared to launch a decisive floor debate and less than an hour before President Biden arrived on Capitol Hill to deliver a final, forceful appeal for action — put an exclamation point on her party’s long and fruitless effort to counter restrictive Republican-passed state voting laws.“While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said, adding that lawmakers “must address the disease itself . Some have argued for even more thoroughgoing reforms that would change the nature of the filibuster entirely by forcing the objecting minority actually hold the floor and speak rather than simply register a silent blockade.Biden, in a voting rights speech delivered Tuesday in Atlanta, referred to his 36 years of Senate service, describing himself as an “institutionalist” who has seen the institution wither under the stresses of political polarization, leading to an increasingly routine deployment of filibusters and to an increasingly sclerotic legislative process.“Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self,” he said, calling the filibuster “weaponized and abused.”Biden received fresh backing Wednesday from former president Barack Obama, who has previously questioned the filibuster but made his most forceful call for action in a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday night that called on the Senate to change its rules and pass the voting rights legislation over GOP objections.“In recent years, the filibuster has become a routine way for the Senate minority to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters. “But I think I’ve been very clear where I am, you know, so I hope they respect that, too.”Sinema has made clear she supports federal legislation on voting rights but has consistently expressed reservations about changing Senate rules to pass it — a position that only solidified after she led a group that negotiated a bipartisan infrastructure bill this summer.Last month, her office issued a statement confirming that she “continues to support the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, to protect the country from repeated radical reversals in federal policy which would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions, and further erode Americans’ confidence in our government.” She has warned publicly about the prospect that Republicans could pass severe national voting restrictions should they win the congressional majorities that Democrats enjoy now.As the debate among Democrats has intensified in recent weeks, the tensions between Democrats and Republicans have risen as well.

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