Sen. Dianne Feinstein has long been seen as one of the big supporters of the filibuster. Now she’s making clear her mind could change, providing a big boost to Democrats who want to do away with the procedure that effectively requires most legislation to receive 60 votes in order to pass the Senate. Feinstein, who has served in the Senate for nearly three decades, said late Friday that the shootings in Atlanta this week are pushing her to change her mind and she could be open to changing the way the filibuster works if senators can’t come together in a bipartisan manner on gun-control legislation and voting rights.
“If that proves impossible and Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster by requiring cloture votes, I’m open to changing the way the Senate filibuster rules are used,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “I don’t want to turn away from Senate traditions, but I also don’t believe one party should be able to prevent votes on important bills by abusing the filibuster.”
In the statement, Feinstein pointed out that President Joe Biden also expressed support for the change this week. Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years, suggested he could endorse what is knowns as a “talking filibuster,” which essentially requires a senator to keep talking in order to maintain the filibuster. “I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden said in an interview with ABC News. “You had to stand up and command the floor. And you had to keep talking.”
Feinstein had previously said she wasn’t too eager to change the filibuster rules because she’s worried about what could happen if Republicans regain control of the Senate. She was hardly the only holdout among Democrats to changing the rules, but even some who have talked about the importance of the Filibuster seem willing to at least talk about reform. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, for example, recently said he was willing to discuss requiring a talking filibuster.
With Feinstein and Manchin both expressing potential support for at least some kind of reform, the main holdout among Democrats is now Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Synema hasn’t just opposed filibuster reform, she’s also said she would consider strengthening the filibuster. Considering the Senate’s 50-50 split, Democrats would likely need the support of all members of their party to push through any reforms.