Monday, February 6, 2023
HomepoliticsDemocratic Senate candidates put changing the filibuster front and center

Democratic Senate candidates put changing the filibuster front and center

Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania’s upping his game.

The moderate Democrat from western Pennsylvania who’s running in a very competitive Senate primary for the Keystone State’s GOP-held open seat is vowing to vote to scrap the Senate’s legislative filibuster if he’s elected.


“I will vote to end the filibuster. Republicans are abusing it to block voting rights & endanger our democracy. To block health care & child care & union protections,” the U.S. Marine veteran, former assistant U.S. attorney, and two-term congressman argued this week on Twitter. “We have to win this Senate seat to end the filibuster. I can win & help get it done. It’s that simple.”

With his announcement, Lamb now joins Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Montgomery County board of commissioners chair Val Arkoosh – three of his top rivals for his state’s Democratic Senate nomination – in pushing to scrap the legislative filibuster. Fetterman, considered the current front-runner in the primary battle, has hauled in large amounts of campaign cash in part because of his vocal opposition to the filibuster.

And it’s not just Pennsylvania. Many Democratic Senate candidates across the country are outspoken in targeting the filibuster.

Rep. Val Demings of Florida, who’s challenging Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in November, started spotlighting the issue last spring. And her impressive fundraising hauls last year were partially fueled by her opposition to the legislative filibuster, which the GOP is using to stymie President Biden and congressional Democrats from passing key parts of their agenda, including a wide-ranging election and voting reform bill, and a massive social infrastructure and climate change combating spending package.

Rep. Val Demings speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Oct. 21, 2021. (Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Rep. Val Demings speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Oct. 21, 2021. (Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Longtime Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman, was opposed to eliminating the filibuster when the Democrats were in the Senate minority. But in June he changed his stance and went up with Facebook ads, saying he was PISSED” and that “We Must Get Rid Of The Senate Filibuster,” which likely helped boost his fundraising.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Senate candidate and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry on Wednesday unveiled a plan “strengthening American Democracy” which includes ending the filibuster and other reforms.”

His rivals for the nomination, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson also have highlighted their push to scrap the filibuster. 

And in the race for North Carolina’s GOP-held open Senate seat, likely Democratic nominee and former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley has also emphasized her stance to nix the filibuster.


The filibuster, a longstanding Senate tradition requiring 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to advance a bill, effectively allows the minority party to block certain legislation. The Senate is currently evenly split 50/50 between the two parties, with the Democrats holding a razor-thin majority due to the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris through her constitutional role as president of the Senate.

But the Democrats are nowhere close to obtaining the 60 votes needed to quash a filibuster. They don’t even have the simple majority needed to eliminate the legislative filibuster rule. Two moderate Democrats – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – remain opposed to the push by their fellow Democratic senators to scrap the filibuster.

Sen. Joe Manchin delivers remarks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Nov. 1, 2021.

Sen. Joe Manchin delivers remarks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Nov. 1, 2021.
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – the top Democrat in the chamber – acknowledged this week that it would be an “uphill climb” to pass a rule change this month in hopes of passing the party’s election reform bill.

Twenty-seven percent of those questioned in a Fox News national poll in April favored scrapping the filibuster, with 29% opposed and nearly one in four not having an opinion.

Forty-four percent of Democrats, but less than a quarter of independents and just one-in-ten Republicans said they supported eliminating the filibuster.

Fundraising off the push to eliminate the filibuster seems like a no-brainer for some Democratic Senate candidates, especially in blue and purple states, as it rallies the base and helps bring in campaign cash.

Senate Republicans remains uniformly opposed to changing the Senate rules, and GOP strategists say there could be a downside for Democratic Senate candidates come this year’s general elections.

“Scrapping the filibuster is a great issue to rally their liberal base in a primary and raise money. But it becomes a liability in a general election,” veteran Republican strategist Ryan Williams recently told Fox News.

“They’ve painted themselves into a partisan corner. These Democrats are competing for seats that are currently held by Republicans, and in order to win support they’re going to have to look like bipartisan consensus builders,” Ryan argued. “By campaigning against the filibuster, they’re dropping any pretense of bipartisanship and looking like rigid partisans who will have difficulty attracting the independent votes they need to win.” 

Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 


Most Popular