Warren, Buttigieg take Sanders to task for embracing the filibuster

Image: Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders
Pete Buttigieg, lizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in a Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. Copyright Patrick Semansky AP
Copyright Patrick Semansky AP
By Sahil Kapur with NBC News Politics
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The Vermont senator's position on the issue breaks with the progressive movement.


CHARLESTON, S.C. — Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg took aim at Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders on Tuesday for refusing to support the elimination of the 60-vote rule to pass Senate legislation — a rare issue on which he's out of step with many progressive activists.

At the debate here four days before the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Warren said scrapping the filibuster and allowing legislation to pass by a simple majority vote is essential to "get something done" in the Senate over the objections of Republicans and powerful industry groups.

"I've been in the Senate and I've seen gun safety legislation introduced, get a majority, and then doesn't pass because of the filibuster," Warren said. "Understand this: the filibuster is giving a veto to the gun industry. It gives a veto to the oil industry. It's going to give a veto on immigration."

She added, "If Mitch McConnell is going to do to the next Democratic president what he did to President Obama, and that is try to block every single thing he does, then we are going to roll back the filibuster."

The filibuster is a longstanding Senate rule at the heart of the chamber's robust minority rights. It requires a majority of votes in the chamber to be eliminated. The 60-vote rule has in recent years been scrapped for presidential nominations to the executive branch and the judiciary, but it remains for legislation.

"Many people on this stage do not support rolling back the filibuster," Warren said, referring to Sanders and Joe Biden.

The remarks elevate a line of attack that Warren, who has fallen behind in polls, recently debuted against her progressive rival after months of reluctance to criticize him. As she spoke, her campaign issued a press release titled, "We Need to Get Rid of the Filibuster."

Sanders has proposed to use a budget procedure known as reconciliation to bypass the 60-vote rule and approve his tax and spending plans.

Buttigieg was more explicit: "How are we going to deliver a revolution if you won't even support a rule change?" he asked Sanders, drawing cheers from the crowd.

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor noted that former South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond used the filibuster to try and block civil rights legislation.

"No less a Senate traditional figure than (former majority leader) Harry Reid has called for it to go," Buttigieg said. "It has got to go because otherwise Washington will not deliver."

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