Democratic candidates focus on filibuster
Democratic Senate candidates across the board are campaigning on a message to reform the filibuster as they seek to increase their party's majority next year.
Why it matters: Candidates have traditionally run by telling voters what policies they'll enact in office. Now, they're highlighting the tool they want to use to pass such things as voting rights legislation, a minimum wage increase and abortion access safeguards.
In Pennsylvania: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman told Axios: "It's incumbent on us as a party to use the opportunities that we have," referring to Democrats' Washington trifecta of controlling the House, Senate and White House.
- "Voters gave us a mandate and we need to get things done, especially in the areas of like voter suppression and Roe v. Woe and minimum wage."
- Two of his primary Senate campaign rivals, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, also support nixing the filibuster.
In Wisconsin: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes supports eliminating the filibuster as a means of passing voter rights legislation that's been stalled in the U.S. Senate.
- Barnes and three of his rivals, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, all see abolishing the filibuster as a first step to increasing protections for workers trying to organize.
In North Carolina: Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court now seeking a Senate nomination, recently clarified her position after saying she'd been misquoted.
- She called the filibuster "a tool of gridlock, which stops and prohibits the passage of the kind of legislation that the majority of the American people support."
Driving the news: In some of the most competitive Senate races, a vast majority of Democratic candidates agree on at least one thing: doing away with the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for major legislation.
- Many are in favor of removing the threat of the filibuster altogether, while others advocate carveouts for issues such as voting rights.
- Their position is a reflection of a caucus that — with a current 50-50 chamber — is increasingly interested in finding a way to push through legislation with the simple majority Vice President Kamala Harris provides when she votes in the Senate.
Between the lines: The current 60-vote rule empowers Republicans, even though the Harris tie-breaking vote puts them in the minority.
- It also means holdout Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have outsized influence on major policy items, including abandoning the filibuster itself.
- They can dictate policy on things like President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan, because their defection deprives Democrats even of their simple majority.
- Midterm trends, redistricting and current polling make it extremely unlikely Democrats will secure a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority, but picking up two or three open seats — say, in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina — would open the opportunity to circumvent the filibuster in 2023.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include Wisconsin state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski's stance on the filibuster.