Sen. Alex Padilla says Democrats will have ‘no choice’ but to ‘revisit’ filibuster reform if the GOP blocks a voting-rights compromise bill

Alex Padilla
Sen. Alex Padilla of California.

  • Sen. Alex Padilla said that continued GOP obstruction of voting rights will force Democrats to “revisit” legislative rules.
  • On MSNBC, Padilla took aim at the filibuster, which he has sought to eliminate in the Senate.
  • Democrats have been unable to persuade 10 Republicans to advance voting-rights legislation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Alex Padilla on Sunday said that if Republicans block the voting-rights compromise legislation being drafted by Democratic lawmakers, then the party will have “no choice” but to look to filibuster reform.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” the California Democrat, who last December was tapped to join the upper chamber to fill the remaining term of now-Vice President Kamala Harris, said that if Democrats fail to muster 10 GOP votes to overcome an filibuster, then the party would have to reexamine how to pass the legislation.

Padilla said that a working group that consists of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, along with himself and others, sought to work diligently in order to craft a bill that could garner the support of all 50 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

“We’ve taken some during this August recess to appeal to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “I know Sen. Manchin keeps reminding everybody how the preference is always to work in a bipartisan fashion. When we can, that’s great. But our fundamental voting rights are so important and so critical.”

He emphasized: “I think if we’re not successful in getting 10 Republicans to do the right thing, then we have no choice but to revisit the rules of the Senate … some outdated rules of the Senate. Whether it’s abolishing the filibuster as a whole or somehow creating a carve-out or exemption to allow these measures to go forward for the sake of our democracy. It’s too important.”

For months, the party’s marquee voting-rights measures – the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act (H.R. 4) – have stalled in Congress.

The previous version of the For the People Act included provisions to ban partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and curb voter purges, among other measures. The bill would also mandate that states offer mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, policies which are anathema to conservatives.

The House passed the previous version of the bill, but it has languished in the Senate – Democrats need 60 votes to advance the legislation and Republicans have so far refused to sign on to H.R. 1 and filibustered the bill in June. For months, Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have dismissed calls to nix the filibuster, saying that such an action would only inflame partisan divisions.

Even if the compromise bill receives 50 votes, Democrats still need 10 crossover votes. Republicans, who have passed of wave of restrictive voting laws across the country, have accused their colleagues across the aisle of seeking to “federalize” what they feel are election matters that should be within the purview of states.

Democrats contend that the GOP-led voting laws have imperiled the voting rights of everyday Americans, while conservatives argue that the bills are designed to shield the voting process from nefarious activity – despite the low rates of significant voter fraud.

Since joining the Senate, Padilla, who previously oversaw California’s elections as secretary of state, has called for the elimination of the filibuster.

When asked by Hasan whether he agreed with his Golden State Senate colleague, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said in June that she didn’t view democracy as “being in jeopardy right now,” Padilla took a different view.

“Democracy is clearly in jeopardy,” he said. “What I can say is that a lot of my colleagues that may have been reticent earlier in the year to modify or abolish the filibuster continue to see the obstruction by not just Mitch McConnell but our Republican colleagues across the board.”

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Democrats renew calls to end the filibuster after McConnell said he’s ‘100%’ focused on stopping Biden

Mitch McConnell
“One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday.

  • McConnell said Wednesday “one-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”
  • His remarks cast doubt on hopes for bipartisanship and prompted renewed calls to end the filibuster.
  • Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were among the lawmakers to renews calls for an end to the rule.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his entire focus is on stopping President Joe Biden’s administration, Democratic lawmakers renewed calls to end the filibuster.

Speaking of the GOP, McConnell told reporters outside his Kentucky home on Wednesday that “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” NBC News reported.

“We’re confronted with severe challenges from a new administration, and a narrow majority of Democrats in the House and a 50-50 Senate to turn America into a socialist country, and that’s 100% of my focus,” he said.

Democratic members of Congress seized on the remarks as evidence that bipartisanship was not possible and stressed the necessity of ending the filibuster, a rule that requires a 60-vote super-majority to pass legislation in the 100-person Senate.

Read more: 9 hurdles facing Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure, jobs, and tax plan as Republicans pitch a less-pricey alternative

“The Constitution doesn’t say anything about it taking a super-majority of 60 senators to pass a bill,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a tweet. “It’s time to get rid of the filibuster so Mitch McConnell doesn’t get a veto over the will of the people.”

Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California said McConnell is using “the same playbook he’s used for years.”

“Anyone expecting a return to some bygone era of bipartisanship isn’t acknowledging the reality that we are in. We MUST eliminate the filibuster,” he said in a tweet.

The Senate is currently split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, and some Democrats have called for the end of the filibuster as the only way for the Biden administration to accomplish its agenda. Biden himself has said the filibuster has been “abused.”

“If we’re going to achieve anything meaningful for working families we must use reconciliation, abolish the filibuster and pass legislation with 51 votes. We can’t afford to wait,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in response to McConnell’s comments.

But some moderates don’t agree. Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have both refused to support the effort to abolish the filibuster, with Manchin saying it was designed to encourage bipartisan consensus, something that some progressives view as unrealistic.

“Please stop asking us about bipartisanship when this is what the leader of the other party is focused on,” Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted in response to McConnell.

“Democrats can’t repeat the mistake of 2009, we must abolish the filibuster & move legislation that helps us deliver progress for the American people,” she said. “Let’s grow a backbone.”

McConnell’s statements came the same week that former Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who joined the Libertarian party in 2019, praised progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for visiting his University of Chicago class.

Justin Amash AOC

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