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Three Democratic senators leading the charge on climate change are throwing cold water on an idea some left-leaning presidential hopefuls are backing to eliminate a legislative rule requiring at least 60 out of 100 votes in the Senate to pass most major bills.

Why it matters: Eliminating the rule at issue — the filibuster — would empower political parties controlling the Senate to push through big policy, such as measures on climate change, more easily over the objection of the party not in control.

One level deeper: Many people associate the filibuster with long speeches, but to end those speeches, you need at least 60 votes. This gets arcane quick, but the end result of having the filibuster in place usually means either no big bills get passed in a divided Senate, or you get bills with broader and more bipartisan support. Doing away with it would make it easier to pass bills without broad and bipartisan support because you would need just a simple majority (51 votes).

What we’re hearing: A trio of Democratic senators influential on climate change said at a briefing with reporters on Wednesday that they’re not ready — at least not yet — to back such a move.

“I think we would be unwise to talk about some parliamentary fork in the road that only occurs if we win the Senate and the presidency.”
— Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
“We should win the [climate] debate and deal with the procedural issues when it’s appropriate to deal with the procedural issues.”
— Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
“I don’t think it’s true we must undo the filibuster in order to prevail.”
— Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)

The other side: Democratic presidential candidates Jay Inslee, Washington state governor, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have both said they would do away with the filibuster to enact big climate-change policy given most Republicans are not seriously engaging on the issue.

Where it stands: For now, this is the kind of highly speculative “what if” discussion Washington loves. Democrats need to jump through 2 huge hoops in the next election before they can entertain this prospect: Winning the White House and control of the Senate.

The intrigue: The arcane filibuster talk came amid a broader briefing on a carbon tax bill the trio introduced on Wednesday. The measure is unlikely to pass any time soon given opposition to the idea by most Republicans and even some Democrats, but the senators hope to lay the groundwork for more substantive debate in the coming months and years.

Go deeper: How to make energy and climate policy that sticks

Go deeper

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.