30 Senate Dems, Including Kamala Harris, Signed Plea To Keep Filibuster In 2017. What’s Changed?

Screenshot via YouTube/Tom Cotton

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Several Democratic senators are defending their votes to eliminate the filibuster less than five years after demanding that Republicans keep the procedure.

In a Wednesday vote, 46 Democrats and two Independents moved to ax the nearly 200-year-old filibuster, although they were ultimately unsuccessful in doing so. For 26 of those senators, the vote marked a complete reversal of their 2017 position.

In the 2017 letter addressed to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senators argued that they wished “to preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions as they pertain to the right of Members to engage in extended debate on legislation” in an effort to ensure that the Senate “continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body.” (RELATED: Harris Shares Her Doubts Over Filibuster Roughly Five Years After Demanding Republicans Keep It)

At the time, President Donald Trump repeatedly urged McConnell to eliminate the filibuster to pass bills related to immigration and health care. McConnell refused, a position he has referenced several times during the current congressional session.

On the Senate floor, Independent Maine Sen. Angus King initially claimed that his Wednesday vote would be consistent with his signing of the 2017 letter.

“Let’s talk about the letter itself,” he said during an exchange with Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. “What it says is, ‘we are united in our determination to preserve the ability of members to engage in extended debate when bills are on the Senate floor.’ I agree with that. The proposal that is going to be put on the floor today is one that will allow extended debate.”

“If we were here talking about immigration or gun control or any of the other many issues that we consider, I wouldn’t be taking the position that I am,” King added. “I believe that the rules of the Senate are important and that extended debate is an important part of the Senate process. However, we’re talking about fundamental structural changes, not policy changes, structural changes, that I believe, in spite of your comments that in many states across the country are compromising the ability of our people to express themselves in our democracy.”

Demcoratic New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan also claimed that the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are categorically different from other legislation that should be subject to the filibuster.

“I never imagined when I signed that letter that not a single member of the Republican Party would stand up for our democracy,” she said.

Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who circulated the 2017 letter alongside Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins, claimed that he was only “embracing a change that is as narrow and temporary as possible and that will restore debate on this floor.” However, he did not directly address the contents of the letter in his floor speech.

In all, of the 26 signatories who voted against the filibuster Wednesday, Hassan, King, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow have directly addressed their previous support for the procedure.

The offices of Coons, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, Montana Sen. Jon Tester, Delaware Sen. Thomas Carper, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rhode Island Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment on the matter.