Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has decided that he supports ending the filibuster by modifying it through a “talking filibuster,” which would require senators to speak on the floor to block legislation instead of the traditional filibuster requiring 60 votes to proceed to a final vote.
In a statement, Kelly compared the Senate to NASA, implying that the decisive action of the bare majority should outweigh the hesitations of the minority. It is unclear whether Kelly considered the 1986 Challenger explosion before he offered that comparison to justify his decision — the Challenger rocket did make it off the launchpad, but only survived for 73 seconds before exploding and killing the seven passengers on board.
It is also unclear whether Kelly considered the Biden Administration’s botched withdrawal efforts from Afghanistan late last summer, which caused the deaths of 13 service members at the Kabul Airport.
“As an astronaut and a combat veteran, I can tell you that if NASA or the Navy functioned like the United States Senate, we would never get the rocket off the launchpad and in combat we’d never complete the mission,” said Kelly. “Arizonans deserve a Senate that is more responsive to the challenges facing our country, which is why I’ve spoken with Arizonans and my Republican and Democratic colleagues about their views on what can be done to make this place work better. I’ve considered what rules changes would mean not just today, but years down the road, for both parties and all Arizonans.”
Kelly also asserted that modifying the filibuster was necessary because the country needed to protect mail-in voting and thwart dark money’s influence in elections.
“If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote,” said Kelly. “Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction.”
State Representative Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert) criticized Kelly’s sudden, hard show of partisanship given the senator’s history of prudence.
“And just like that, Senator Mark Kelly shows his true tyrannical beliefs and destroys any long term future he has representing the people of the great state of Arizona,” wrote Grantham. “For a man with such an amazing service record, what a shameful display of partisanship.”
Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) said they won’t support weakening the filibuster. Last week, Sinema explained in a 20-minute floor speech that scrapping the filibuster wasn’t a “lasting solution” but rather mere partisanship. She described the true issue at hand as the “descending spiral of division” destroying our country.
Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has kept up a consistent front of indecisiveness concerning whether he supports or rejects abolishing the filibuster rule. The latest from the senator came from remarks to Politico on Monday, in which he alluded that he would take abolition into serious consideration if a “real proposal” were introduced. According to Kelly, fellow Democrats haven’t made decisiveness possible because the proposals discussed change “almost weekly.”
Even in the event a real enough proposal comes to fruition, Kelly shied away from any insinuation of partiality to one solution or another, promising to take into account the country’s “best interests.” If Kelly explained what those “best interests” were, Politico didn’t report them.
All throughout the pandemic, Kelly hasn’t been able to give a solid answer to reporters on the filibuster. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) compiled a comprehensive record of Kelly’s remarks to the press on the subject from June 2020 to present. Some of the senator’s closest indicators to a stance on abolishing the filibuster came about in September 2020. Kelly didn’t treat it as a serious solution but rather a political talking point.
“I mean, [the filibuster] really shouldn’t be part of the discussion. It’s also very hypothetical and it’s kind of more of the same stuff from a broken Washington,” said Kelly at the time.
Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green responded to the Politico coverage with an insinuation that Kelly was feigning indecisiveness. Green, a progressive activist powerhouse, had replied to a disgruntled Democrat supporter vowing to stop funding Kelly over his indecisiveness.
“He is fine. Don’t believe this stuff,” wrote Green.
Prior to Kelly’s election, Green expressed doubt that Kelly was a solid choice for the Senate. Green toldThe Intercept in 2019 that Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07) was a better fit.
During a Tuesday speech at Atlanta University Center, a historically black college in Georgia, President Joe Biden characterized the filibuster as a threat to democracy. The president claimed that he’s an “institutionalist,” which is why he wants to destroy the institution. Institutionalists prioritize traditional organizations at any expense.
“Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self. It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate,” said Biden. “But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote.”
Sen. Mark Kelly is accused of continuing to dodge the question about his support for eliminating the legislative filibuster. Kelly was able to dodge the filibuster question throughout the entire 2020 campaign and recently told the Arizona Republic he was “studying” it.
According to a new report from CNN, “Kelly, an Arizona Democrat up for reelection next year, indicated he hasn’t decided if he backs lowering the 60-vote requirement or if his position is in line with Sinema’s opposition to changing the rules.
While Kelly said Tuesday he is “generally a believer in change,” the freshman Democrat said, “I’ll evaluate any change to our rules, regardless of what they are, based on what’s in the best interest of Arizona, and the best interest of our country.”
Critics say that if the senator wants to please his constituents, he might want to look to a recent Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) poll to shape his decision. The FGA poll found the majority of Arizona voters support the legislative filibuster because they believe it ensures bipartisanship.
Sen. Sinema on the other hand has been not shy about her opposition to killing the filibuster. Speaking to reporters alongside GOP Sen. John Cornyn in Arizona last week, Sinema indicated that she would not shift from her opposition to changing the Senate’s rules. Sinema argues that it “protects the democracy of our nation rather than allowing our country to ricochet wildly every two to four years.”