Democrats have control of Congress in both the U.S. House and Senate, but if the filibuster rule requiring a supermajority of 60 votes to pass Senate legislation remains, much of its pro-union legislation will remain stalled at the gate.
Bill Samuel, Director of Government Affairs for the AFL-CIO, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss why changing or amending the filibuster would change the game for unions and the right to organize.
Progress made on the PRO Act, but well short of 60 votes to break filibuster
The PRO Act has gained additional support, as more Democratic Senators agreed to endorse the bill, Samuel reported. He estimated the legislation is currently backed by 49 Democrats, so far. Union leaders still need the support of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and are hopeful she will eventually come around.
However, as Senate rules currently stand, a supermajority of 60 votes is needed to override the filibuster — an impossibility considering the bill has no Republican support, Samuel stated.
With the current Senate rules regarding the filibuster, it is impossible for Democrats to lead and do the job their constituents sent them to Washington to do, he declared.
Labor will win if Democrats change the rules of the game, Samuel said. As the situation currently stands, the game is rigged, but Democrats have the opportunity to turn the tables.
Voter rights legislation could push Senate on filibuster
In mid-September, the Senate is scheduled to consider both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4) and the For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1). Both pieces of legislation passed a vote in the House.
H.R. 4 restores the 1965 Voting Rights Act to protect minority voters from discrimination. It will change rules enacted to make it harder to vote, such as many of the new voter rules implemented in Republican led states.
H.R. 1 protects the right to vote. It guarantees vote by mail, automatic registration, early voting and outlaws voter roll purges and other voter suppression tactics used in some states. It also includes language to address redistricting and campaign finance.
Samuel suspects the Senate will eventually merge the two bills.
He thinks many Democrats are considering either amending or eliminating the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation, since both bills receive no Republican support.