Josh Marshall at TPM and others have speculated that Democrats could buck the midterm trend by officially making the election a referendum on abortion rights. Democrats could say, “Help us hold the House and elect X more Democratic senators in November 2022, and we will eliminate the filibuster on a vote to protect abortion rights in January 2023.”
The problem is, we don’t know exactly how many additional Democrats we need to accomplish this. We’ve known for months it has to be at least two to make Manchin and Sinema irrelevant, but are other Dem / Dem-caucusing independent senators hiding behind the two known obstructionists? TPM created a tally sheet using educated guesses, and it looks like the number is four.
According to the tally, Senators Mark Warner and Angus King are likely hold-outs. The tally cites comments from Warner indicating that voting rights is the only filibuster carve-out he supports. King argues that with the filibuster gone, Republicans could turn around and ban abortion when they regain power, saying “today’s annoying obstruction is tomorrow’s priceless shield.”
King is correct to note that with the filibuster gone, Republicans would reverse legislation Dems enact. But that might be a good thing because Republican policies (like banning abortion) are unpopular. A policy whipsaw in a filibuster-free U.S. Senate might have the added benefit of vaporizing the Dems’ “branding” problem by making it clear what each party stands for, even for people who pay zero attention to politics.
Democrats have used the filibuster to block terrible Republican policies, but the fact is, the filibuster protects Republicans and obstructs Democrats most of the time. The senate map gets worse for Democrats after 2022, so if the party is going to test a transactional proposal to voters on abortion rights, now would be the time to start rolling that out after getting an official count.