On the Trail: Talk of ending filibuster puts Hassan on the hot seat

For the Monitor
Published: 5/15/2021 3:30:13 PM

The president of Americans for Prosperity, a powerful conservative advocacy organization, came to New Hampshire this week and promptly took a jab at Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan during his group’s on-going push to “Save the Filibuster, Save America.”

Hassan, who may likely face a challenging re-election in next year’s 2022 midterms, is the latest lawmaker AFP has targeted in its campaign to put pressure on moderate Democratic senators to oppose their party’s push to scrap the legislative filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to pass most bills in the 100-member Senate.

“We’ve got to make sure that Sen. Hassan and the other Democratic senators understand that regardless of what folks on the extreme left are saying, that normal people back in their states don’t want to see this partisanship and the extreme legislation that will happen if they kill the filibuster,” Phillips told the Monitor ahead of his event in Salem on Thursday.

AFP, which was co-founded by Republican mega-donor Charles Koch, is also putting pressure on Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, with Phillips traveling to those states to hold similar events.

AFP has also launched in recent weeks a six-figure social media and radio ad campaign to put more pressure on the Democratic senators. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware is also targeted in the paid media push.

In taking aim at Hassan, AFP’s reminding the senator that when the GOP controlled the Senate in 2017, she was among 61 senators from both parties who signed a letter urging then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the filibuster.

Scrapping the filibuster, a major goal of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, was a frequently debated topic during the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. With the Senate currently split 50-50 between the two major parties – the Democrats control the chamber due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. Yet the filibuster is preventing President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats from passing many of the sweeping measures they want to enact.

The push to scrap the filibuster was reignited after now-Senate Minority Leader McConnell said earlier this month that “100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”

Responding to McConnell, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted that “the Constitution doesn’t say anything about it taking a super-majority of 60 senators to pass a bill.”

Warren, a progressive champion who ran for the White House in 2020, eventually dropped out and endorsed Biden.

“It’s time to get rid of the filibuster so Mitch McConnell doesn’t get a veto over the will of the people,” Warren said.

Senate Democrats currently don’t have the votes to topple the filibuster, with Manchin and Sinema opposed to scrapping the filibuster.

AFP isn’t the only outside group targeting Hassan.

The pro-GOP political advocacy group One Nation, which is closely linked to McConnell, launched a new ad blitz against Democratic senators in five states, including New Hampshire, that take aim at Hassan and other senators for their support for a wide ranging election and campaign finance reform bill, which would increase federal oversight of many state run election procedures.

The “For the People Act” ‒ known as H.R.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate ‒ narrowly passed the Democratic controlled House earlier this year in a party line vote. The measure now faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the chamber. Earlier this week the Senate Rules Committee deadlocked 9-9 on the bill as they marked it up.

Democrats highlight that their bill would “improve access to the ballot box” by creating automatic voter registration across the country and by ensuring that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full voting rights restored. The bill would also expand early voting and enhance absentee voting by simplifying voting by mail. There was a surge in absentee voting during last year’s primaries and general election due to health concerns of in-person voting at polling stations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If passed into law, the bill would also enhance federal support for voting system security, increase oversight of election system vendors, upgrade online political ad disclosure and require all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors. It would also create a multiple matching system for small-dollar donations, which would be paid for by a new surcharge on “corporate law breakers and wealthy tax cheats,” tighten rules on super PACs, and beef up the enforcement powers of the Federal Election Commission.

Republicans slam the measure saying it would lead to a federal government takeover of elections and accuse Democrats of trying to change election rules to benefit themselves. But Democrats say the measure is needed to combat the passage of laws in states where Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature that tighten voting rules, which Democrats characterize as voter suppression.

The GOP needs a net gain of just one seat to regain the Senate majority they lost in the 2020 election cycle contests. But they’re defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2022, including five open seats.

But they see potential pick ups in four states, including Hassan’s seat in New Hampshire.

While she’s getting targeted by pro-Republican groups, there’s also support from Democratic aligned organizations.

Both Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the state’s senior senator and a fellow Democrat, are being thanked by the progressive advocacy group End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund for their votes to help pass the massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that President Biden signed into law earlier this year.

The group said last week that it was going up with a 7-figure ad buy thanking Democratic senators, which included Hassan and Shaheen.

And this past week, the progressive nonprofit and voting rights group endorsed Hassan’s 2022 re-election bid.

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