The Corner

Politics & Policy

Jonathan Chait’s Bad Sinema Review

Kyrsten Sinema at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturer of the Year summit in Phoenix, Ariz. (Gage Skidmore)

At New York magazine, Jonathan Chait argues that Kyrsten Sinema’s position on the filibuster is irrational because the current exceptions to the 60-vote threshold undermine the efficacy of her case:

Almost every specific example she cites here as a possible or actual grounds of defense by the filibuster cannot be protected by the filibuster.

The reason is that the Senate has work-arounds for the filibuster. One is for confirmation of judges or executive-branch appointments. The other is for bills that change taxes and spending. The latter, called budget reconciliation, can be passed with 51 votes.

Almost every program Sinema cites above is a spending program that can be defunded through budget reconciliation: women’s health, aid to children and families in need, health care, Medicaid, Medicare, women’s reproductive services, funding for federal agencies to protect the environment and education. Several of them have been targeted in budget reconciliation bills

This would be a good argument were it not for the fact that Kyrsten Sinema has said that she wants to get rid of those “work-arounds.” As she told Burgess Everett back in March: “I want to restore the 60-vote threshold for all elements of the Senate’s work.” That includes “confirmation of judges or executive-branch appointments” and “bills that change taxes and spending.”

It is true that, at the moment, Sinema is unlikely to achieve this goal. But she’d be even less likely to do so — or to engender the change in Senate “behavior” that she talks about so often — if she were to consent to the wholesale abolition of the very system she hopes to expand.


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