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To filibuster or not to filibuster, that is the question Sen. Bennet won’t answer

DENVER — While one of Colorado’s two US Senators has gone on record that he is not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster, the other has a track record of flipping on the topic and is currently evading the question.

John Hickenlooper

Sen. John Hickenlooper told Colorado Public Radio in March that he is not ready to end a long-standing rule that curtails bills coming to a vote because members of the Senate can debate the bill for as long as needed to stop the vote.  Senator Bennet on the other hand has a history of changing his tune on the matter, alternating between calling for reform, but using the filibuster when it’s advantageous.

With Democrats in charge of both Congress and the White House, there are renewed calls to reform or possibly end the filibuster by some, including President Joe Biden, who has also defended the filibuster in the past when it served Democrats’ interests.

Under the filibuster rule, it currently requires 60-votes to end a debate. With Democrats essentially holding 50 votes, they would need 10 republicans to agree. Since Republicans argue the filibuster is all they have to stop radical legislation coming from majority Democrats and the Biden administration, it’s unlikely that would ever happen.

Hickenlooper told CPR he agrees with keeping the rule in place for those very reasons.

“The filibuster is in place to protect a minority,” Hickenlooper said in the interview. “And certainly, if you look back in the last 20 years, it’s been a pendulum. Democrats go from the majority to the minority and that protection goes both ways.”

Michael Bennet

However, Sen. Michael Bennet has yet to take a formal stance on the filibuster after years of being cagey on the issue. In 2010, Bennet called for its reform, even introducing a resolution to do just that.

“The Senate’s rules are intended to encourage the body to function collegially, foster debate and get the people’s business done,” Bennet said in 2010.  “Yet a few of these rules are actually having the real-world outcome of doing exactly the opposite and blocking progress on our most pressing challenges.  The pervasiveness of the filibuster has started to cause the Senate to descend into complete dysfunction. Improving some of the rules under which the Senate functions can begin to replace some of the bad habits Washington has developed, with better ones.”

Bennet’s resolution sought to reduce the time of debate on legislation that has broad bipartisan support.  It also would have eliminated the filibuster on the motion to proceed, end secret holds, and would force Senators to vote in person to use the rule. The resolution died.

But as recently as 2016, Bennet was using the filibuster to his benefit when he and dozens of other Democrats held up the Senate floor pushing for gun control legislation.

Bennet is still being cagey with regard to the filibuster question.  The Wall Street Journal in September 2020 quoted Bennet as saying, “If people continue for their own political reasons to make it impossible for the majority to exercise its will, filibuster reform may have to be on the table.”

A filibuster rule change needs all 50 Democrat senators and the Vice President to vote in favor. In addition to Hickenlooper, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Dianne Feinstein of California have all said they don’t support gutting it.

Although Complete Colorado initially received communication from Bennet’s office seeking comment, Bennet’s communication director, Kate Oehl has not returned multiple attempts to contact her since.

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