A growing number of left-leaning groups are giving senators an ultimatum: Do everything you can to pass voting rights legislation, or go without our support in future elections.
If the swipe wasn’t clear enough, it’s aimed at two Democratic senators—Krysten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Both remain opposed to a filibuster carveout for passing voting rights protections, which the Senate will vote on this week, allowing voting rights bills to pass with a simple majority in the Senate rather than the 60-vote threshold.
In a lengthy letter Tuesday, Emily’s List—the Democratic PAC that supports female candidates and had previously endorsed and campaigned for Sinema—told her they won’t back her 2024 re-election bid if she doesn’t support a filibuster exception for voting rights.
“She will find herself standing alone in the next election,” EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler wrote.
And on Wednesday, pro-abortion-access group NARAL also announced they’re changing their endorsement criteria to exclude senators who stand in the way of voting rights reforms. Groups including End Citizens United, League of Conservation Voters, Latino Victory Fund, Black Voters Matter Fund and Collective PAC have also signed on to a letter saying they will only endorse senators in future elections that “take all necessary measures” to pass voting rights, “including reforming Senate Rules if necessary.”
And Planned Parenthood Action Fund issued its own warning.
“Any Senator who chooses to protect arcane Senate rules over the freedom to vote and the health of our democracy is betraying their constituents, tarnishing their legacy, and harming the fight for reproductive rights. They will have to live with the political consequences,” PPAF president Alexis McGill Johnson told The Daily Beast in a statement.
There’s a growing momentum among left-leaning groups to push senators to ditch the filibuster, especially when dealing with issues as important as protecting voting rights.
But the effort seems to be having little impact with Sinema.
She responded to EMILY’s List's ultimatum by noting that the filibuster had been used to prevent polarized policymaking in the past, including for abortion access. “I said on the Senate floor last week that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy. Such honest disagreements are normal,” she said Tuesday.
The Arizona senator is already facing tough re-election prospects in 2024—should she choose to run again. Progressive groups have vowed to launch a primary bid against her. And her own colleague, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), told reporters on Tuesday he’d be open to supporting primary bids against senators who don’t support changes to the filibuster.
For Sinema, support and funding from outside groups makes an electoral difference. Arizona is, after all, a swing state. But it’s also an increasingly polarized state, where she could be susceptible to a primary challenge.
Manchin, on the other hand, has the benefit of being a Democratic unicorn in West Virginia. He’s been primaried before and he’ll likely be primaried again, but his voting base largely approves of his outspoken approach to policymaking.
Still, it seems that the pressure campaign won’t have much of an effect on either senator. Both have been resolute that they won’t make exceptions to the filibuster, and Sinema even took to the Senate floor last week—just minutes before President Joe Biden arrived on Capitol Hill to convince them to embrace a carveout—so that she could reaffirm her position.