Democratic United States Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona defended the Senate filibuster on Wednesday during a border tour with Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
“Well folks in Arizona know, I’ve long been a supporter of the filibuster because it is a tool that protects the democracy of our nation rather than allowing our country to ricochet wildly every two to four years back and forth between policies,” Sinema said in an interview with reporters.
“The idea of the filibuster was created by those who came before us in the United States Senate to create comity and to encourage Senators to find bipartisanship and work together. And while there are some who don’t believe bipartisanship is possible, I think that I’m a daily example that bipartisanship is possible. Not just this trip today and tomorrow that John and I are doing, but the work that John and I and I and many other of my colleagues in both parties do on a regular basis,” Sinema said.
Sinema’s interpretations of history and the current political reality are fundamentally flawed.
The filibuster is the GOP’s legislative weapon of choice and a decrepit vestige of the Jim Crow era. For decades, Republicans have perverted the arcane relic into an obstructionist tool to hinder progress and thwart presidential agendas with which they disagree, no matter how popular that commander in chief’s policies are with the general public.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last month that “one hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” and he made a nearly identical threat during Barack Obama’s first presidential term.
Continuing on, Sinema admitted that the Senate is a mess and then championed herself as a “warrior” of bipartisanship – the very thing that the filibuster currently prevents – because of Republicans.
“So to those who say we must make a choice between the filibuster and X, I say this is a false choice. The reality is that when you have a system that’s not working effectively – and I think most would agree that the Senate’s not a particularly well-oiled machine, right, the way to fix that is to change your behavior – not to eliminate the rules or change the rules, but to change your behavior,” said Sinema. “So I’m going to continue to go to work every day aggressively seeking bipartisanship in a cheerful, happy, and warrior way as I always do and showing that when we work together we can get things done.”
Sinema wants to have it both ways.
Last week, she skipped voting on the establishment of a commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. The measure was successfully filibustered by 35 Senate Republicans. And although her participation would not have changed the eventual outcome, her claims of being a shining example of bipartisanship hold little water.
When asked why she opposes eliminating the filibuster, given its racist roots, Sinema insisted that the naysayers have it all wrong.
“Well, the filibuster was not created as a tool to accomplish one thing or another. It was created as a tool to bring together members of different parties to find compromise and coalition,” she explained.
“And when you think about our Founding Fathers, when they created the Senate with two Senators from every state regardless of population size, with elections staggered, you know, every six years so that only a third of the body is up for election each cycle, it was designed to be a place where you cooled the passions of the House, where you work together to find the compromise, and importantly, where you protect the rights of the minority from the majority, regardless of which party is in the majority at the time,” Sinema added.
Many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves who were only considered three-fifths of a human being and were not allowed to vote. Further, Sinema is just plain wrong, as Intelligencer‘s Jonathan Chait pointed out:
The filibuster was not ‘created to bring together members of different parties.’ Political parties did not exist when the Constitution was written, and the Founders famously failed to anticipate their central role in the system.
The filibuster emerged in the 19th century not by any design, but, as Brookings scholar and Senate expert Sarah Binder has explained, due to an interpretation of Senate rules which held that they omitted any process for ending debate. The first filibuster did not happen until 1837, and it was the result of exploiting this confusing rules glitch.
Second, the Founders not only did not create the filibuster, they specifically rejected a supermajority voting requirement. (They didn’t like having a chamber where every state had equal votes regardless of size, either, but they had to agree to it, for the same reason they had to accept the three-fifths clause: They were politicians, and they couldn’t wrangle enough votes for the Constitution without compromising their principles to do it.) They created a supermajority requirement for a handful of special votes, like a treaty or Constitutional amendment, but rejected such a requirement for normal legislation.
Additionally, Alexander Hamilton explained in “The Federalist Papers”:
To give a minority a negative upon the majority is in its tendency to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser number …The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been formed upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But it’s real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.
The problem today is that Republicans have reengineered the filibuster to give the minority power over the majority. Coupled with the nationwide efforts from the GOP to curb voting rights, Sinema’s assessment is not only factually incorrect – it is downright dangerous.
Watch below via More Perfect Union:
Standing next to Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Democratic @SenatorSinema says the filibuster "protects the democracy of our nation."
Cornyn voted to filibuster creating an independent commission to examine the 1/6 attack on our democracy. Sinema didn't vote. pic.twitter.com/zUTE9utzqp
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) June 2, 2021
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.