Progressives Seek to Punish Moderate Democrats for Supporting Senate Filibuster

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) gestures outside the Senate chamber during a recess in impeachment trial proceedings against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. House Democrats will wrap up opening arguments on day 4 of the Senate impeachment …
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A new progressive political group with ties to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is mobilizing to punish two moderate Senate Democrats for their refusal to support abolishing the filibuster.

On Tuesday, Politico reported that two former Ocasio-Cortez staffers were launching No Excuses PAC to recruit challengers to Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) in 2024. The group plans to start soliciting candidates to run in West Virginia and Arizona, including digital and traditional media ads urging candidates to run.

No Excuses PAC plans to start the process early in order to ensure that a primary candidate is well-situated to challenge Sinema or Manchin in four years’ time. It also hopes that being a visible presence for the next four years will pressure the senators to move to the left.

“The only real way to pressure any of these folks and hold them accountable to their promises is to threaten their power, and threaten the seat that they hold and threaten their reelection,” Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s former chief of staff, told the outlet.

Chakrabarti also admitted that No Excuses would not necessarily prioritize supporting the most progressive candidates but would make opposition to the filibuster the criteria for its support.

The Senate rule, which requires a three-fifths vote—usually 60 votes—to end debate on a piece of legislation, had become a point of internal division for Democrats. Since the party took control of the Senate earlier this year, a number of its leading Democrats have argued abolition of the filibuster is imperative to prevent potential obstruction by the GOP. Progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have urged abolition to ensure swift action not only on Biden’s agenda, but also hot-button issues like expanded access to abortion and gun control.

The mounting support for eliminating the filibuster on the left led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to demand that any agreement on organizing the Senate include strong protections for the rule. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) refused such an agreement. Schumer contended that while he had no plans to jettison the filibuster currently, conceding to McConnell’s terms would remove any leverage Democrats had for keeping Republicans in line.

While Schumer held out on agreeing to protect the filibuster, McConnell’s demands on the issue put pressure on moderate Democrats. Manchin and Sinema, in particular, faced intense questions and scrutiny on the topic since both had once defended the filibuster, claiming the limitation it imposed on majority rule was the “entire premise” of the Senate.

Sinema, who in 2018 became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, was the first to relent under the media pressure. The Arizona lawmaker told the Washington Post earlier this month that she not only opposed “eliminating the filibuster” but was also “not open to changing her mind” on the topic. Manchin, who had been suggesting for weeks that he would not be the 51st vote to kill the filibuster, shortly announced he too was firmly opposed to abolition “under any condition.”

Sinema’s and Manchin’s decision to reaffirm their support for maintaining the filibuster undermined Schumer’s position. Without his full caucus willing to even embrace the threat of discarding the rule, Schumer would likely be unable to muster the votes for a rule change, at least while the Senate remained split evenly.

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