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Why it matters that Amy Klobuchar would 'get rid of the filibuster'

The more Mitch McConnell and his members refuse to work constructively, the more they push Dems like Amy Klobuchar to consider ending filibusters.
Image: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee hearing on the logistics of transporting a COVID-19 vaccine, in Washington
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Dec. 10, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AP Pool

Now that the Democrats' democracy reform bill -- the "For the People Act" -- has passed the House, it's up to its Senate sponsors to figure out how to pass it in the upper chamber.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) yesterday endorsed the most obvious solution.

"I would get rid of the filibuster," Klobuchar says. "I have favored filibuster reform for a long time and now especially for this critical election bill." In the past, Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, has indicated she was open to eliminating the filibuster, but these comments to Mother Jones are her most definitive statement to date.

It may seem like ancient history, but as recently as 2017, 31 Senate Democrats signed a joint, bipartisan statement in support of preserving the legislative filibuster. Amy Klobuchar was one of the 31. She's obviously changed her mind.

That's perfectly understandable -- officials should be open to revisiting their positions in response to changing circumstances -- and the Minnesotan is hardly alone.

As we discussed a couple of months ago, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) also signed the 2017 statement demanding that the legislative filibuster remain intact indefinitely. He's changed his mind, too.

"I'm certainly open to [ending filibusters] in ways that I would not have said I was two years ago," Casey told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The Senate doesn't function like it used to and I think as much as I'd like to think that we can go back to those days when consensus and bipartisanship was the rule rather than the exception, now it's the opposite."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was also one of the signatories four years ago to preserving legislative filibusters. And yet, late last year, the Ohio Democrat declared, "We've got to eliminate the filibuster." Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also endorsed the 2017 statement in support of the filibuster, and he now wants the obstructionist tactic to be abolished, too.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was also among the signatories, though he told the New York Times in January that he's keeping an open mind in light of GOP abuses. "I feel pretty damn strongly, but I will also tell you this: I am here to get things done," the Montanan said. "If all that happens is filibuster after filibuster, roadblock after roadblock, then my opinion may change."

If Democratic senators like West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema remain committed to the dysfunctional status quo, it doesn't much matter, at least for now, what the rest of the caucus thinks. But it's worth keeping in mind that this debate isn't happening in a vacuum: the more Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his members refuse to work constructively on public policy, the more they push Democrats to eye institutional reforms they used to oppose.