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(CNN)Most Democrats want nothing more than to change the baroque Senate rules that allow a 2/5 minority — that’s 40 senators — to block any legislation.
But not all Democrats! That’s why the party’s top priorities of creating a national voting standard to undo restrictive election bills in key states and a massive infrastructure bill are within sight, but locked away.
Nobody is happy. Nobody is budging. We’re a long way off from the kind of cross-party negotiation that’s primed to yield a funky left-right-center coalition in Israel, where the system of government ultimately forces parties to work together. The system here gives us two parties, and they no longer work together.
The math is the math. In the evenly split Senate — there are 48 Democrats, two independents who act like Democrats, and 50 Republicans — there are not the votes to change anything.
President Joe Biden, maybe a little exasperated, and maybe exerting a little pressure, called out his own party’s senators this week.
Frustrations. “I hear all the folks on TV saying, why didn’t Biden get this done,” Biden said Tuesday in Tulsa, before splitting for the beach to celebrate his wife’s 70th birthday. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.”
He didn’t name them, but the filibuster-friendly Democrats he was talking about are Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. (Also, fact checking Biden here: Manchin and Sinema only vote against their party about a third of the time, according to one estimate, and almost always together on big bills, where their votes are needed).
But the vote to change Senate rules — commonly referred to as the “nuclear option” — would completely change the ways Senate business is conducted forever.
The theater of it all. Until Democrats can bring Sinema and Manchin in line, they don’t have the votes to change the rules and remake the Senate. And Republicans, united as ever, can block at will. What you’re seeing right now is what I’d view as a political theater. Democrats have to do everything they can to convince two of their own that bipartisanship can’t work. This could get ugly.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny has covered the White House, elections and Capitol Hill and will tell you that the same arguments that win politicians an election in one state will lose them another.
If people like Manchin, a Democrat representing a deep red state, and Sinema, who has reinvented herself into a John McCain-style maverick, are to follow the party over the cliff of forever clipping minority rights, it has to be, or at least seem to be, the last possible option. He disagrees that this is all just for show.
ZELENY: Finding bipartisan consensus is far more than simply an act of political theater. It’s a critical step in winning over moderate Democrats like Manchin, Sinema and a handful of other senators who are less outspoken. If Biden didn’t make any serious concessions and followed the advice of some progressive Democrats and stopped his serious negotiations with Republicans, he could lose the support from Manchin & Co.
The $1 trillion infrastructure plan is about more than rebuilding the nation’s cr
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