Grossman/Binder interview about the filibuster

Here is an excellent in-the-weeds discussion of the filibuster, between Matt Grossman and Sarah Binder, for the Niskanen Center. The two political scientists get into the current politics in the senate surrounding filibuster reform. It’s pretty fascinating, and a good companion to Adam Jentleson’s work (see links below).

Here’s an excerpt from Grossman and Binder’s transcript:

Matt Grossmann: So one thing that reformers often say is that these folks in the middle would have all the power under a 50 vote Senate, so why aren’t they in favor of moving it there? Molly Reynolds, who we’ve had on the podcast before, has found that it matters what those bills look like that are coming down the pike, because even though those moderate senators are considering their power on the floor, they’re also kind of considering what the agenda would be. And so she points to the Waxman-Markey climate bill last time as being important for that. So is it that maybe we have a very large and liberal democratic agenda that’s making these moderate senators give pause, and why, if they could still block it on the floor?

Sarah Binder: Oh, that’s the million dollar question. The purest form of the question is, what is Joe Manchin thinking? But, the broader version of the question is precisely that. Why are majorities… why don’t they yet have a majority for nuking the filibuster? And I think Molly is right to point to the ability of moderate members, in particular, to point to and to hide behind and blame the rules, right? “Oh, we couldn’t do that because we need 60.”

And so we never really know where different senators are on particular proposals, and whether in fact there are 50 for a version of climate change, or a version of voting rights, a whole host of issues, gun control, and so forth. But of course, there’s… senators and moderates aren’t the only ones blaming the rules and blaming supermajority rules. Right? Think about if you’re a House member, you’re a House swing district member, and you know that HR1 is not going to be enacted into law the way it is. It comes out of your House, but you get a lot of bonus points from your party and activists for voting for it. And you can tell the moderates back in your district, “Well, look, this is just the first push, and the final bill will be different.” So everybody-

And this is just the first push and the final bill will be different. So everybody’s hiding behind the filibuster. So are presidents, right? They get saved from having to really, push comes to shove, sign things into law or not, because there are parts of them that they oppose. So on the one hand, yeah, why isn’t Manchin, why isn’t he out there wanting to put the Senate into a majority rule, because yes, his power certainly is greater? But I think it’s really hard to know until we really know where 50 senators are on many of these top priorities.

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