Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said Monday that she supports restoring elements of the filibuster to processes where it’s been eliminated — namely, the confirmation of Supreme Court justices and federal judges — rather than dispose of it entirely, as some in her party have said needs to be done in order to overcome Republican obstructionism.
“Not only am I committed to the 60-vote threshold, I have an incredibly unpopular view: I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already,” she said. “We should restore it.”
Sinema made the comments while giving remarks at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville alongside the site’s namesake, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Democrats in the Senate enacted the so-called “nuclear option” in 2013, imposing a majority vote to confirm federal judicial nominees and executive branch appointments. The GOP, under McConnell, expanded the nuclear option in 2017 for Supreme Court nominees.
The 60-vote threshold effectively requires all legislation that passes the Senate to have bipartisan support. But it gives the GOP a way to easily block major Democratic priorities with the 50-50 split in the chamber. (Democrats have been able to pass some marquee elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda through a process known as budget reconciliation that requires a simple majority vote.)
The mechanism has also drawn fierce criticism for its historically racist roots.
Sinema said Monday that “not everyone” likes her stance, acknowledging it would make it “harder for us to confirm judges, and it would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration.”
“But I believe that if we did restore it, we would see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance,” she said, “which is what, I believe, our forefathers intended.”
Many Democrats have been frustrated by Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for their reluctance to support the party’s legislative priorities. Democratic leaders have called on Sinema and Manchin to overturn the filibuster to help protect voting rights, enact climate action and codify abortion access while the party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House, but they have largely refused.
Sinema on Monday said she ran for the Senate after serving in the House to overcome her frustration with the lower chamber. She said she believes the Senate’s job is to “cool” the passion of the House, where, she claimed, whichever party is in control regularly passes “crazy legislation.”
“I remember being so frustrated during those six years, because I felt like every time there was a big bipartisan solution that needed to happen, the Senate just kinda came up with a solution and gave it to the House and we just ate it,” she said. “The Senate was designed to be a place that moves slowly.”
Sinema drew McConnell’s praise on Monday. The Senate minority leader called Sinema a “genuine moderate and a dealmaker,” and the “most effective first-term senator” he’s seen in his 37 years in the chamber.
The Arizona Democrat said she and McConnell have become friends “despite our apparent differences.”
“Senator McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, [and] our respect for the Senate as an institution,” she said.