Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated his commitment to keeping the Senate filibuster Monday and pushed for a power-sharing agreement after two Democratic senators voiced support for the longstanding rule.
The Senate is split 50-50 along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, giving Democrats narrow control as the tiebreaking vote to push President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities.
However, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, said Monday in statements that they oppose getting rid of the 60-vote threshold to pass nearly every piece of legislation — a rule known as the filibuster.
McConnell said in a statement: “Today two Democratic Senators publicly confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden’s and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation.
“The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001. With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” he said.
Democrats, however, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have said the party is unwilling to make that promise, a concession that could prevent them from passing much of Biden’s agenda, such as a third round of stimulus checks, programs to reduce climate change and immigration reform, among other issues, for the next two years.
All 50 Democratic senators would have to stick together to use the so-called nuclear option to change the threshold to pass legislation from 60 votes to 50. That leaves the chamber stuck at an impasse without establishing the new majority.
McConnell signaled Monday night that he would back off his requirement to write such protections into the power-sharing agreement. With Senate Democratic leaders remaining firm, it remains to be seen whether McConnell will follow through and drop his blockade of the transfer of control of the Senate’s committees. McConnell had said he wanted Democrats to promise to stick to the filibuster in exchange for handing over the gavels of the powerful panels.
Dartunorro Clark is a political reporter for NBC News.