by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democrats have big plans for their small congressional majorities but realize that to make the kind of sweeping changes they really want, they will need to eliminate the filibuster, add new states, and expand the Supreme Court.
For this reason, congressional Democrats are advancing statehood for Washington, D.C. New proposals for Puerto Rican statehood have also been introduced. They likely lack the votes to eliminate or change the Senate’s filibuster rules, which effectively create a 60-vote threshold for most legislation in the chamber, but have been more outspoken in denouncing it as a Jim Crow relic, and liberals are making support for its abolition a litmus test in next year’s primaries.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the longtime nonvoting D.C. delegate in Congress, connected statehood for the federal district with the fate of the filibuster. “The filibuster is on its last legs,” the Democrat told an interviewer. “That puts D.C. closer to statehood than we have ever any chance of believ[ing] we would have.”
Liberal intellectuals have increasingly argued that not only the filibuster but also basic parts of the U.S. constitutional structure — equal representation among states in the Senate, the Electoral College, and the nation’s capital existing outside of any state — are racist, undemocratic, and lead to minority rule. Changing some of this is also seen as conducive to Democratic power.
A widely read interview with top Democratic operative David Shor that was shared on Twitter by former President Barack Obama advised Democrats that it was “very important that we add as many states as we can” to balance against possible Republican gains in next year’s midterm elections.
“Basically, we have this small window right now to pass redistricting reform and create states,” Shor said.