A number of Democrats have made renewed calls to eliminate the filibuster and pass new gun control legislation in the wake of a week which saw two mass shootings in the United States.
On March 16, eight people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, including six Asian women. Six days later, ten people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.
Democrats including Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Representative Jason Crow (Colo.), Representative David Cicilline (R.I.), and Pennsylvania Senate candidates John Fetterman and Malcolm Kenyatta have used the shootings to call for an end the 60-vote threshold required to pass most legislation in the Senate.
“Things won’t get better until Democrats get rid of the filibuster and finally pass gun safety legislation that a huge majority of Americans support,” Warren wrote in a tweet. “What are we waiting for – another tragedy?”
Democrats have used the deadly shootings to call for an end to the filibuster, claiming it would be impossible to get the ten Republican votes that would be required to pass new gun restrictions in the Senate, such as background check expansion and gun bans that President Biden has supported.
“The United States Senate should immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close loopholes in the background check system,” Biden said Tuesday in a public address one day after the shooting in Colorado. “We need to act. We should also ban assault weapons in the process.”
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, which would reform the gun background-check system. While the bill is likely to pass through the committee and receive a vote in the Senate, it is expected to fail to reach the 60 votes required to move forward.
If the filibuster were replaced with a simple majority threshold instead, Democrats would be empowered to pass legislation without GOP support — as long as the party remained united — as Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate.
However, a number of Democrats have positioned themselves against ending the filibuster, including Senators Joe Manchin (W., Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), both of whom are moderates who hold critical votes in the evenly divided Senate.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Biden have also not been receptive to progressives’ calls to remove the 60-vote threshold.
However, Biden and Manchin have recently said they would potentially support “reforming” the filibuster by requiring senators to hold the floor by physically speaking.
Meanwhile, Feinstein indicated on Friday that she would support that shift if the Senate is unable to pass new gun control bills.
“This month the House passed bills to improve background checks for gun purchases and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, among other key legislation,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Ideally the Senate can reach bipartisan agreement on those issues, as well as on a voting rights bill. But if that proves impossible and Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster by requiring cloture votes, I’m open to changing the way the Senate filibuster rules are used.”