Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with Democrats and is a member of the Senate Rules Committee, on Sunday said that although he’s reluctant to nix the filibuster altogether, he is open to a “talking filibuster” or “alternative” as Democrats revive the debate over the Senate rule in the aftermath of Republicans filibustering the Freedom to Vote Act.
Appearing on MSNBC, King stated that he is not ready to kill the filibuster, but would prefer an “alternative” to the rule.
“I’m not really ready to say, ‘let’s get rid of it altogether’ because I think there are circumstances where it makes sense. So I’d prefer some alternative to what the present rule is. I’d like to restore the Senate to what it was, where we actually had debates and people had to hold the floor,” King said.
King floated the option of a talking filibuster where 41 votes would be required to block legislation.
“And so I think some kind of talking filibuster, perhaps a rule that instead of having to have 60 votes to pass something, you’d have to have 41 votes to stop it,” King said. “So that way, the minority would at least have to show up. One of the problems now is they don’t even have to show up. They don’t have to speak, they don’t have to do anything, it just sort of becomes an automatic supermajority requirement, which isn’t in the Constitution, and the framers were diametrically opposed to that concept.”
Asked whether he believes Democrats have the 50 votes to change the rule, particularly filibuster loyalists Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) support, King said that although he has spoken with both of them, he can’t say for sure.
“I don’t want to read minds here. I know that both of them have resisted it, as have I, because once you monkey with the rule, then it’s going to work both ways. It’s going to come back and it could come back to bite those who want to move things forward right now,” King said. “Today’s obnoxious obstruction tomorrow could be a precious shield. But when it comes to democracy, I think, I think Joe and Kyrsten will listen.”
Alongside seven of his Senate colleagues, which include Manchin, King introduced the Freedom to Vote Act last month as a way to get Manchin on board with Democrats’ revival of their stalled voting rights push.
Despite Manchin’s promise to get 10 Republicans to help Democrats defeat the filibuster, the bill ultimately failed last week in a 49-51 vote to proceed to a debate on the bill, with no GOP support.
The GOP’s latest filibuster pushed most in the Democratic caucus to revive the filibuster debate, with President Biden signaling his openness to getting rid of the filibuster entirely, saying that it’s time to “fundamentally alter the filibuster” after Senate Republicans blocked the Freedom to Vote Act last week.
King’s latest remarks indicate a shift in his stance on the filibuster when it comes to voting rights legislation. Last June, King told CNN that although he is “very reluctant” to nuke the filibuster, he would be willing to nix the legislative procedure to pass voting rights legislation.
“But if it comes down to voting rights and the rights of Americans to go to the polls and select their leaders versus the filibuster, I will choose democracy,” King told CNN in June.
Watch King’s remarks below: