I remember the angry texts, emails and calls. In April 2017, many of my Republican friends and constituents questioned why, only months after President Donald Trump was sworn in, I joined 60 of my Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership calling for the filibuster to be preserved. My GOP supporters wanted to know why I did not support a procedural change that would ultimately make it easier to pass Trump’s agenda.
When Republicans eventually regain power, they can count me out of any effort to permanently destroy bipartisanship for the sake of scoring short-lived political gains.
My answer to them was simple: For more than a century, the filibuster has served as a safeguard of our republic. It has prevented one party from ramming through an ideological agenda when that party controls both the White House and Congress. By requiring 60 votes to end debate in the Senate, the filibuster necessitates bipartisan compromise to pass legislation, denying both the far left and far right free rein to fundamentally bend America to its will.
I also noted that Trump would not be president forever, and eliminating the filibuster would pave the path for the left to reverse the entirety of the Trump agenda and even turn America into a socialist country once a Democrat was eventually elected.
It is unfortunate that following the election of President Joe Biden, nearly all the current Senate Democrats who signed that letter have decided that the principles they claimed to possess were only situational. Since their party now controls Washington, they are entertaining or outright supporting the elimination of the filibuster. There are only two Senate Democrats who have been unequivocal in opposing ending the filibuster and destroying the necessity of bipartisan compromise in Washington: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The two have both faced intense political blowback, including their own party recruiting left-wing candidates to defeat them in their primaries. Sinema has taken the biggest political risk by holding firm in her position, though, given Arizona’s purple constituency. While I may have fielded some angry messages from constituents a few years ago, Sinema has been on the receiving end of a full-on assault from activists across the country. Going nuclear, they have branded her public enemy No. 1 and launched nasty personal attacks, spending millions of dollars on a pressure campaign.
It’s rare to have an elected official from one party publicly praising another from the opposite party, but I’m doing just that because it’s so essential for the future of our nation that Sinema holds fast in keeping the filibuster intact.
The importance of her effort has been made clear as the Senate has worked to pass bipartisan infrastructure legislation rather than pushing through every liberal dream item. Sinema is currently leading a bipartisan group of 22 senators in negotiating the details of an infrastructure bill that would modernize our nation’s roads and bridges and expand access to broadband in underserved communities. She met with President Joe Biden on Tuesday to try to get the measure across the finish line, and on Wednesday Republicans announced they had reached agreement.
If Democrats had eliminated the filibuster, there would have been no attempt to find common ground on infrastructure or other critical issues. It doesn’t necessarily make legislating easy, but it is getting members of both parties in the same room to work together for the good of the nation, as our Founding Fathers intended.
Thankfully, instead of backing down like nearly all her colleagues, Sinema has doubled down on her principles, the filibuster included. In a recent op-ed published in The Washington Post, she made it clear that requiring consensus and compromise is a more noble long-term objective than rushing through the short-term partisan desires of Washington Democrats. It’s also a position that makes sense. Sinema is absolutely right in arguing that “once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority.”
Republicans will again control both the White House and Congress, and sooner rather than later. If Senate Democrats get their way and end the filibuster, that means every single one of their progressive legislative victories could be immediately rescinded by the new GOP majority.
After that, Republicans could pass a bold conservative agenda without the need for a single Democratic vote. This would likely include passing a national right-to-work law to curb the influence of big labor unions, defunding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities, and eliminating burdensome restrictions on Second Amendment rights. That’s just for starters.
However, with Sinema and Manchin rejecting the coordinated pressure campaign, bipartisan support to pass any legislation is likely to remain a requirement. As Sinema wrote, “Instability, partisanship and tribalism continue to infect our politics. The solution, however, is not to continue weakening our democracy’s guardrails. If we eliminate the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, we will lose much more than we gain.”
I could not agree more. When Republicans eventually regain power, they can count me out of any effort to permanently destroy bipartisanship for the sake of scoring short-lived political gains, just as many of my colleagues and I refused to entertain the notion when Trump was in the White House.
From Barry Goldwater to John McCain, Arizona has had its fair share of mavericks in the U.S. Senate. Arizonans should be proud of Sinema for standing firm in preserving the filibuster and sticking to her principles when they matter the most.