The filibuster can be invoked to ensure a bill needs 60 votes to progress rather than a simple 51-majority in the 100-seat Senate. Seen by many Democrats as an unfair veto by a minority party, many Republicans claim it is a vital check against a party with only a narrow majority enforcing its will.
In an open letter released this week, the activists as well as other signatories including business owners and faith leaders called on Sen Sinema to end support for the filibuster rule, which they said was likely the only path to passage of the Equality Act, a major piece of legislation that would amend federal civil rights statutes to protect Americans on the basis of gender and sexuality.
Sen Sinema, who is openly bisexual and a co-sponsor of the act, was warned in the letter that she could face a primary challenge in the 2024 election should she fail to drop her support for the legislation’s main obstacle.
“If you refuse to do this, we will have no choice but to seriously consider whether our support for you, including financial donations, may better serve our community if directed to another Democrat who will use their power as a US Senator to stand up for our rights,” it read.
“Our right to exist, and the rights of black and brown transgender women to live are not up for debate or compromise. Unless we end the filibuster, the Equality Act has no chance of passing the Senate in this polarized climate,” it continued.
The senator’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from The Independent.
The letter’s publication comes just days after Sen Sinema herself reiterated support for the filibuster in an op-ed for The Washington Post that characterised the rule as preventing wide policy swings in favour of the majority party.
“It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. I held the same view during three terms in the US House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority,” the Arizona Democrat wrote.
Sen Sinema and her centrist colleague from West Virginia, Sen Joe Manchin, have found themselves the targets of widespread criticism from Democrats who have argued that their opposition to ending the filibuster is paralysing President Joe Biden’s agenda.
In particular, the filibuster (and Senators Sinema and Manchin by extension) have been blamed in recent weeks for the failure of their party to pass the For The People Act, a major piece of voting rights legislation that Democrats warn is necessary in the face of widespread GOP-led efforts around the country to restrict the availability of mail-in voting and pass other provisions aimed at making it harder to vote.
The two have remained steadfast in their opposition to weakening or ending the filibuster, however, even as Republicans have shown little to no interest in engaging with Democrats on any meaningful piece of legislation.
The Biden administration’s Covid-19 relief bill passed on a party-line vote through the reconciliation process earlier this year, and in the months since that occurred Republicans have stalled Democrats attempts to reform voting rights, investigate the attack on the US Capitol perpetrated by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, and signalled that they will mostly if not all oppose the Democrats’ infrastructure package as well.
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