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McConnell Relents on Filibuster Demand after ‘Assurances’ from Sinema, Manchin

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Al Drago (Al Drago/Reuters)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backed down late Monday evening on his demand that Senate Democrats promise to preserve the filibuster.

McConnell’s decision to relent comes after two moderate Democrat senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said they would vote to keep the filibuster, leaving Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer lacking the votes to end the rule.

“Today two Democratic Senators publicly confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster,” McConnell said in a statement. “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 Senate is now split 50-50 between the two major parties. With Vice President Kamala Harris’s deciding vote, Democrats have a narrow majority which they hope will be sufficient to pass President Biden’s major legislative goals, the first of which is a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

McConnell noted that the legislative filibuster was a “key part” of the foundation beneath the  Senate’s power-sharing agreement the last time the upper chamber was split 50-50 in 2001.

“With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell said.

Schumer had pushed McConnell to agree to a power-sharing agreement or organizing resolution similar to the 2001 agreement between Republicans and Democrats, but the Kentucky Republican had insisted that Democrats vow not to scrap the filibuster, the procedural tool wherein the minority party can effectively demand 60 votes to pass most legislation. McConnell’s refusal to enter into an agreements delayed the turning over of committee leadership posts to the new Democratic majority.

“We’re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand,” said Justin Goodman, Schumer’s spokesman. “We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”

McConnell’s decision to relent came after House impeachment managers delivered the single impeachment article for “incitement of insurrection” against former President Trump to the Senate Monday evening.

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