Vice President Kamala Harris blasted Republicans’ use of the filibuster and urged Senate Democrats to eliminate it during a Tuesday speech, less than five years after signing a letter urging then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the procedure.
“Senate Republicans have exploited arcane rules” to block the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, Harris said at an Atlanta, Georgia rally. The two bills would effectively nationalize election laws by restoring a legal provision allowing the Justice Department to challenge state laws as discriminatory, and would also mandate extensive early voting and absentee ballot provision, as well as prohibiting bans on ballot-harvesting.
As a result of Democrats’ failure to get the support of 60 senators to pass the two bills, both Harris and Biden are calling on Senate Democrats to eliminate the filibuster. (RELATED: Sen. Joe Manchin Reaffirms His Stance On The Filibuster: ‘I’m Not Going To Change My Mind’)
“Nowhere does the Constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation,” she claimed. “Years from now our children and grandchildren, they will ask us about this moment. They will look back on this time, and they will ask us, not about how we felt. They will ask us what did we do? We cannot tell them that we let a Senate rule stand in the way of our most fundamental freedom.”
Harris’ position is a complete reversal from her time in the upper chamber. Less than four months into her tenure, Harris was one of 33 Democratic senators to sign onto a letter circulated by Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons calling on McConnell to maintain the filibuster for all legislation. In all, 61 senators signed onto the effort.
“We are mindful of the unique role the Senate plays in the legislative process, and we are steadfastly committed to ensuring that this great American institution continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body,” the senators wrote in April 2017.
During Harris’ four years as a California senator, which overlapped with GOP Senate control during the Trump administration, Republicans initiated cloture votes to break Democratic filibusters more than 400 times. Democrats successfully filibustered Republican objectives 39 times.
Then-President Donald Trump repeatedly urged McConnell to eliminate the filibuster in order to pass a raft of conservative priorities, but McConnell declined. The Kentucky senator defended his position in March 2021, as Democratic calls to eliminate the procedure began to mount.
“A sitting president leaned on me to do it. He tweeted about it,” McConnell said. “I said no repeatedly. Because becoming a U.S. senator comes with higher duties than steamrolling any obstacle to short-term power.”