Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this week that should Democrats take control of the upper chamber during the 2020 election, there’s one thing they could do to further efforts to tackle climate change: Kill the filibuster.
“The No. 1 priority is climate change,” Reid told The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein in an interview published Wednesday. “There’s nothing that affects my children, grandchildren, and their children, right now, more than climate.”
The longtime lawmaker’s comments come as support for ending the filibuster has grown among Democrats in recent years. At the same time, the conversation around climate change has become a campaign talking point for many candidates, and both CNN and MSNBC are planning to hold climate-focused town hall events (the Democratic National Committee is still mulling a full presidential debate on climate change).
Some of the Democrats running to unseat President Donald Trump next year have touted the idea as a means to end the legislative tactic that effectively mandates a supermajority of 60 senators be on board with any legislation so it can pass in the chamber. But other 2020 candidates have said they’re unsure if that’s the right path forward, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has said he’s “not crazy” about the idea.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a 2020 presidential candidate and the only Democrat running on a campaign largely focused on climate change, had earlier called for the end of the filibuster, saying in February that it was “an artifact of a bygone era” that somehow “got grafted on in this culture of the Senate.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has also expressed support in her campaign for ending the legislative tactic.
On Wednesday, Inslee cheered Reid’s pronouncement in a statement, saying the former Senate leader understood “that the climate crisis must be the top priority of the next President, and that we must end the filibuster to defeat this beast.”
“Harry Reid knows Mitch McConnell,” Inslee said. “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.”
Inslee had previously lambasted some of his opponents, including Sanders, telling Politico last month that if the 60-vote threshold stands, there is “no way” that McConnell, the current Senate majority leader, would allow climate legislation to move forward, even if Democrats held the chamber and had 59 votes.
But the move remains controversial. Reid ended the filibuster threshold for many judicial appointments in 2013 after being stymied when trying to approve President Barack Obama’s nominees to the courts, but McConnell also did the same for Supreme Court nominees in 2017, which led to an easier confirmation for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Reid appeared confident that the filibuster would go by the wayside at some point, an idea that’s grown considerably among prominent Democrats in recent years.
“It is not a question of if,” he told the Beast. “It is a question of when we get rid of the filibuster. It’s gone. It’s gone.”