Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), one of the Democratic senators who previously threw their support behind preserving the filibuster, on Thursday evening joined the growing chorus of Democrats calling for the abolishment of the procedure.
Heinrich asserted in a statement that the filibuster, which requires most legislation to have a 60 votes in order to pass rather than a simple majority and has therefore become an effective tool for GOP obstruction, ought to at least be changed to a talking filibuster (a reform President Joe Biden and other Democrats have backed), if not blown up entirely.
“Too often the filibuster has been used to block our country’s continued march toward equality,” Heinrich said. “We must change this.”
The Democratic senator pointed at the notorious voter suppression efforts in Georgia, which largely targets its Black population, as a reason to get rid of the filibuster and allow Democrats to pass their For the People Act, a blockbuster voting rights bill known as H.R. 1, without Republicans getting in the way.
“We have the legislation to stop this. The For the People Act would restore voting rights to Americans targeted by efforts like those in Georgia,” Heinrich said. “We can’t let the filibuster continue to shield structural racism in our country.”
In the growing movement among Democratic senators to kill the filibuster, much of the focus has been on Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who have loudly voiced support for the procedure. Less attention has been paid to Democrats like Heinrich who signed Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons’ (D-DE) letter pushing for the preservation of the filibuster in 2017 and have yet to fully reverse their stance. And some of those Democratic signatories, such as Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Angus King (I-ME), openly continue to support keeping the filibuster to this day.
However, H.R 1 has become a pressure point for Democrats who support or remain on the fence about the filibuster as Republicans across the country amp up their crusade to limit voting in wake of the 2020 elections.
“There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said last week. “That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic.”
Correction: This post initially misstated Susan Collins’ party affiliation.