President Trump is having a hard time selling senators on his call for an end to the filibuster, but Republicans running for the Senate are proving to be a much more eager audience, suggesting reinforcements could be on the way for Mr. Trump.
One of those, Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the Alabama seat left vacant when Jeff Sessions became attorney general, changed his stance earlier this week and is revoking his support for the filibuster.
“Conversations with the president have led me to the conclusion that changing the filibuster rule is the only way we will be able to build the border wall, rein in sanctuary cities, defund Planned Parenthood, and give the American people real tax relief,” Mr. Strange said.
The filibuster is a Senate rule that requires a supermajority to pass most legislation. Over the course of American history, it has become an iconic protection for the minority party, forcing bipartisan compromises on the big issues of the day.
But those in the majority in recent years have chafed under the filibuster.
When they were in charge, Democrats, upset that the rule was being used to delay President Obama’s efforts to fill court vacancies, voted to scrap the filibuster for most nomination votes.
Now that the GOP is in charge, Mr. Trump says he wants faster action on his agenda.
“The fact that candidates are running against the filibuster shows how polarized the current climate has become and how people believe the Senate needs to be shaken up,” said Darrell M. West, director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution “Few people like gridlock and they hope that getting rid of the filibuster will speed congressional action.”
Still, those pushing for a change are unlikely to succeed any time soon.
Some 61 senators from both parties signed a letter in April expressing support for the filibuster.
“There are not the votes in the Senate, as I’ve said repeatedly to the president and to all of you, to change the rules of the Senate,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, told reporters last month.
Mr. McConnell was a prolific user of the filibuster in his efforts to stymie the previous administration’s legislative agenda.
The irony is that McConnell-aligned super PACs have spent millions of dollars on behalf of Mr. Strange, who was among those who signed the April pro-filibuster letter before backtracking — and opening himself up to accusations of flip-flopping.
Other GOP candidates calling for an end to the filibuster include Danny Tarkanian, who is running in a GOP primary against Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada; and Corey Stewart, who is running for the Republican nomination in Virginia.
“You either change minds or you change the senators,” Mr. Stewart said, adding that he believes the filibuster could become a campaign issue in the 2018 midterm elections.
“It is being used to completely stymie the president’s agenda — even though he may have a Republican majority in the Senate,” he said. “And if we don’t end the filibuster we are never going to able to get through the president’s agenda.”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly pushed to end the filibuster, including last month when his frustration over the stalled-out Obamacare repeal effort led to an anti-filibuster rant.
He pointed to bills he said could pass without the filibuster, including Kate’s Law, a bill named after 2015 murder victim Kate Steinle, who police say was killed by a repeat-illegal immigrant in San Francisco, a sanctuary city.
Veteran lawmakers suggest there would have to be a lot of turnover in 2018 for that to happen.
“I don’t know of any incumbent senators who favor eliminating the filibuster,” former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who served under Mr. McConnell as Senate minority whip from 2007 to 2013, told The Washington Times on Thursday.
“Eliminating the right to object would remove the most effective right senators have to be heard, to offer amendments and to negotiate compromises rather than be overwhelmed by the majority,” Mr. Kyl said. “Members of the minority would become as irrelevant as they are in the House.”
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