Harry Reid Calls for Ending Filibuster, Making Climate Change #1 Priority

Harry Reid at a news conference in 2015. Image: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

In an interview with the Daily Beast this week, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that should Democrats win the Senate in 2020 they should scrap the filibuster and bring climate change legislation to the top of their agenda. Reid explained that “[T]he No. 1 priority is climate change. There’s nothing that affects my children, grandchildren, and their children, right now, more than climate.” (Watch this great video from Vox is you’re unsure of how the filibuster works.)

Hold On a Sec: As the Daily Beast explained, “Reid’s admonition represents the most notable case of a party elder arguing that global warming needs to be the Democrats’ No. 1 agenda item. But it is also premised on three decidedly significant—and to varying degrees, unlikely—developments: that Democrats retake the White House, that they retake the Senate, and that 50 of those Senators decide they are comfortable changing the rules of their chamber to get rid of the filibuster.”

2020 Candidates: While some candidates like Gov. Jay Inslee, as well as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have expressed support for ending the filibuster, others like Sen. Booker haven’t made their stances totally clear. Other front runners like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Former VP Joe Biden stand opposed to ending the filibuster–many believe because of their faith in the goodness of the Senate.

Inslee, who is running a campaign focused on climate change, was in full support of Reid’s proposition especially in light of current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel’s vow to block all of the Democrats’ legislation, saying:  “He knows we can’t sit down to tea with the self-proclaimed ‘grim reaper’ to pass bold climate legislation the science demands. We have to rid ourselves of this antidemocratic supermajority requirement that will stop us from making any progress on the big issues facing our nation and world.

Why This Matters: It’s a serious uphill battle for Democrats to win back the Senate but should they succeed it will likely only be by a seat or two, meaning that their legislative action will be likely impeded by a Republican filibuster. People feel very passionately about whether the filibuster is undemocratic or a necessary procedure to protect the interests of the minority party. Either way, the fact that a highly respected voice in the Democratic party has called for climate action to be a top priority gives cover for other members to do the same and will hopefully ensure that climate change is a major topic of conversation in the 2020 election cycle, even in down-ballot races.

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