Democrats Backpedal On Filibuster Threats In The Face Of Likely Midterm Defeat

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Several prominent Democratic senators are backpedaling on their support for abolishing the filibuster in the face of polls showing Republicans may take back both chambers of Congress in November.

Forty-eight Senate Democrats voted in January to eliminate the filibuster to pass elections nationalization legislation, although Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined with Republicans to save the procedure. Although Democratic Senate nominees Tim Ryan of Ohio, Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania have pledged to blow up the filibuster, polling shows the party is unlikely to have the votes necessary to do so. (RELATED: Manchin Reaffirms Support For The Filibuster As Senate Sets To Vote On Abolishing It)

“It doesn’t have the same impact because they’ll kill it over in the House, so it becomes less of a priority,” Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told The Washington Post. One of 30 Democratic senators who signed a letter to then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to keep the filibuster, Whitehouse later argued his party might need “to find some extraordinary measure” to stop Republican “intransigence.”

“I think it’s a good thing to do but less of a priority,” Whitehouse added.

Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin added that eliminating the filibuster is a “moot point” if Republicans take control, and that she would continue to work across the aisle to pass a bill affirming the legality of gay marriage.

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, one of the last Democrats to come out in favor of blowing up the filibuster, appeared to walk back his support for ending the procedure. He will “take a look at any proposed changes and make a decision based on what’s in the best interest of Arizona and the country,” he told The Washington Post.

In addition to close polls in swing states Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republican challengers have seen tightening numbers in Colorado and New Hampshire. Democrats have a 55% chance to maintain control of the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight, down from a 69% chance in late September.