vox.com/2022/1/13/22876563/kyrsten-sinema-filibuster-bipartisanship
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) arrives to a caucus meeting with Senate Democrats on December 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate rules are fostering obstruction — not bipartisanship.

In a speech on Thursday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reiterated her commitment to preserving the filibuster by citing a familiar reason: bipartisanship.

As Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, has emphasized, however, the belief that the filibuster fuels bipartisanship is one of many myths about the rule. The filibuster requires most bills to get 60 votes in order to proceed in the Senate, but it’s often used as a tool to obstruct legislation, not foster it.

“Certainly there was a time when we had well-established norms in the Senate that fostered problem-solving and bipartisanship,” Ornstein told Vox. “That time is long gone.”

Since Democrats took control of Congress following the 2020 elections, Republican filibusters have killed many of their bills. Democrats are now attempting, again, to pass major voting rights bills (the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights acts), and they are, again, expected to be filibustered by the GOP.

Most Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have had enough. The party’s now pushing for filibuster reform — and a vote on altering the rule is imminent. But moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sinema have resisted calls to make changes. Thursday, Sinema made it clear she wants the filibuster to stay the way it is.

“I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said in remarks emphasizing her support for the filibuster. Sinema’s speech, which effectively dooms Democrats’ chances at a rules change since they need all 50 members on board, rests on the idea that keeping the vote threshold would encourage more compromise and less division.

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