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.
“It is not a question of if,” he told The Daily Beast in an interview from his office at the University of Las Vegas. “It is a question of when we get rid of the filibuster. It’s gone. It’s gone.”
Reid has spoken about the inevitability of ending the filibuster before. But he has never been so explicit in saying it should be done early upon the Democrats retaking the Senate and for the purposes of passing climate change legislation. In doing so, the former majority leader was issuing a warning of sorts to those Democrats currently running for president. As the party’s candidates find themselves mired in a debate over the ambition of their respective health care proposals, Reid was making the case that other legislation would prove as, if not more, imperative—and in all likelihood less difficult to tackle.
Reid should know. He was in Congress when Bill Clinton was tripped up by health-care reform in his first term. He ran the Senate when the passage of health-care reform cost his party dearly in the 2010 midterms. And he watched closely as a failed health-care reform push doomed Republicans in 2018.
“It was the hardest thing I ever did,” Reid said of pushing through the Affordable Care Act.
Few people are as knowledgeable as Reid about the possibilities and limitations of moving matters through the United States Senate. He’s removed from the chamber now, having retired in 2016 amid health setbacks and questions about his political future. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer came after retirement. But Reid said his health was good. And in our 40-minute interview last week, his mood was notably upbeat. It was clear that his distance from national politics was more geographical than operational.
Reid keeps in touch with former aides of his who occupy top posts on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) presidential campaigns. And candidates and operatives still take the pilgrimage to his offices and home to seek advice from the sage from Searchlight. Before our interview, Mayor Pete Buttigieg came to see Reid to discuss the 2020 race.
This is exactly why I support Elizabeth Warren over Bernie Sanders this time around. The call for ending the filibuster is growing momentum with top Senate Democrats and we must keep it up. It’s the only way to strip Moscow Mitch and the Republicans from killing progress. Warren has been climbing into second place in the polls and helping Democrats win a Senate Majority. It’s clear that she is not only thinking like a President, she’s thinking like a true party leader who has what it takes to not only beat Trump but also take on Moscow Mitch. With that said, let’s help these Democrats win a Senate Majority: