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I spoke with Adam Jentleson on my SiriusXM show again last week. He’s a former deputy chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and author of Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy,” an excellent and important book about the dark history of the Senate filibuster.
The pressure has been on to end or change the filibuster, as even President Joe Biden has agreed it is a Jim Crow relic and that something has to be done. And Jentleson, who I’d first had on the program a few months ago, described that history again in this interview.
The main reason I invited him back, however, was to hear his take on what he, as a former staffer to a Senate majority leader, thinks will really happen, particularly as he hears Democratic senators putting out statements or giving interviews about their positions on the filibuster.
Every Democrat will have to vote for any change to the filibuster, since there are only 51 votes with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie. And the only way we’ll see voting rights legislation, immigration reform, the Equality Act and a slew of other laws passed is if the filibuster is curtailed.
It’s often felt like whiplash in recent weeks, however, in which we hear moderate Senator Amy Klobuchar come out for reforming the filibuster and Senator Joe Manchin proposing change, only to then hear Manchin backtrack or hear Senator Kyrsten Sinema once again throw cold water on the idea. This has spun a lot of people — yes, myself included — into social media outrage many a time. And I do think that’s not a bad thing, as we’ve got to keep the pressure up.
Jentleson suggests, however, that we watch the Senate Democrats collectively, and not get hung up on the comments of any one senator. And he believes we’re seeing the Democrats moving toward reforming or ending the filibuster. It’s notable, he says, that just three months into the Biden presidency, various senators have been talking about it no matter the details of their statements, when they could be shutting it down and just uselessly searching for Republican votes.
“I think there’s a reality sort of setting in among the Democrats, where they’re saying, ‘Well, man, we’re not just going to give up on our agenda three months in and sit around and twiddle our thumbs for next two years,’” Jentleson observes. “I’m very pleased with what I see in the caucus. They sort of reach a point where they start to move as a unit, and I think that’s what we’re seeing…I wouldn’t be concerned about the backtracking [by individual senators].”
Listen in to what he has to say — and keep the pressure up, nonetheless. And let me know your thoughts.