Progressives say pressure on Democratic centrists over ending the filibuster needs to move beyond Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaWhy the Democrats need Joe Manchin Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over The Hill's Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (D-Ariz.).
Manchin and Sinema have earned headlines — and barbs from the grassroots — by putting brakes on filibuster reform and, in Manchin’s case, by opposing sweeping voting rights legislation.
But some on the left see the pair of liberal antagonists as giving cover to other moderates who are in the way, but who have not yet come to the surface with all the attention on the two most visible holdouts.
“It seems like there’s definitely a handful of senators who are hiding behind Joe Manchin’s skirts right now,” said Sawyer Hackett, executive director of People First Future, a political action committee started by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “We can’t afford to just sit back and not turn up the pressure on them.”
Potential targets to tighten the screws aren’t hard to spot.
One could be Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein'If this thing qualifies, I'm toast': An oral history of the Gray Davis recall in California The big myths about recall elections Concerns over growing ties between UAE and China could impact sale of F-35s: report MORE (D-Calif.), who irritated progressives by hugging Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Lindsey Graham: Dismissal of Wuhan lab leak theory cost Trump 2020 election Tim Scott: Could be 'very hard' to reach police reform deal by June deadline MORE (R-S.C.) last year during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettGorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant Schumer faces cracks in Democratic unity Courts drowning in backlog pose lingering immigration challenge MORE, former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s pick to succeed liberal hero Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgJuan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go Democrats: Roe v. Wade blow would fuel expanding Supreme Court Abortion fight front and center ahead of midterms MORE.
Feinstein was persuaded to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee after the election. She’s now seen as one of several Democrats who are opposed to significantly altering the filibuster, which progressives fear with all Republicans in a 50-50 Senate will be used to block meaningful legislation during President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE’s first term.
On Thursday, Feinstein befuddled and angered activists by saying she did not believe U.S. democracy was at risk, an out-of-sync statement in a party largely horrified by what it saw as the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and continued mistruths about the election have taken hold on the right.
“If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it. But I don't see it being in jeopardy right now,” Feinstein told Forbes.
The remarks were widely seen as more evidence that the 87-year-old senator is out of touch with fellow Democrats.
“I’m not surprised that she doesn’t think that democracy is at risk,” said Joe Sanberg, an entrepreneur and progressive activist who considered a 2018 Senate challenge against Feinstein. “Beyond the elite gates of her community is a California where we have the highest rates of poverty, where voting rights are being suppressed in the most severe ways,” he said.
“It’s completely absurd,” added Hackett, who mentioned the Capitol riot. “If she’s not able to recognize that as a threat, I’m not sure that she should be in a position of trust defending our democracy.”
Earlier this year, Manchin got a lot of attention for his opposition to including a $15 per hour federal minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief bill. Sinema also rejected the wage hike.
But what some Democrats might have missed is that eight Democrats in total voted against an amendment from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (I-Vt.) to ignore a Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that the wage increase couldn’t be included in the budget reconciliation package.
In addition to Manchin and Sinema, the $15 figure was opposed by Democratic Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack Schumer faces cracks in Democratic unity MORE (N.H.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US White House briefed on bipartisan infrastructure deal but says questions remain MORE (N.H.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Bipartisan senators introduce bill to protect small businesses from cyberattacks China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit MORE (Del.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal Overnight Health Care: US to donate 500 million Pfizer doses to other countries: reports | GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message | Federal appeals court blocks Missouri abortion ban Senate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices MORE (Del.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterAntsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal 'The era of bipartisanship is over': Senate hits rough patch MORE (Mont.) and independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenior Biden cyber nominees sail through Senate hearing Pentagon chief: Military has already started 'over-the-horizon' operations in Afghanistan Pavlich: Democrat senators must oppose Chipman's ATF nomination MORE (Maine).
Senators in the party appear to recognize the scrutiny they are under from an activist base, and support for ending the filibuster is growing within the Senate Democratic caucus.
Sen. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 Hillicon Valley: Facebook to resume some political donations | Microsoft says Russian hackers utilized email system used by USAID to target other groups | Senate confirms Biden's top scientist MORE (D-Nev.) backtracked after telling The Washington Post that she supported reforming instead of canceling the rule, later saying in a statement that she did support killing it off if necessary to pass voting rights legislation and as a means for “protecting democracy.”
King similarly said he would “choose democracy” after previously expressing hesitation about completely ending the practice.
Tester, who like Manchin represents a red state that twice voted for Trump, told MSNBC this week that he’s “still for getting folks on both sides together and try and make the filibuster work,” but seemed to suggest he would support changes too.
“At some point in time this country needs Congress to act and get things done,” he said.
Two sources outside of the Senate who want to get rid of the filibuster said Tester’s remarks were seen as a positive development.
As activists seek to pile on the pressure, they say they want Democrats beyond Manchin and Sinema to feel the heat.
“Everything about this is concerning,” Sanberg said. “We in the United States Senate aren’t beholden to our constituents. That’s really how they’re acting. It’s like an unelected House of Lords.”