Sen. Hickenlooper says ‘time to change the filibuster’ to protect voting rights

By: - December 15, 2021 4:46 pm

Then-Democratic presidential candidate and now Sen. John Hickenlooper delivers a campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 10, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. Hickenlooper is the Democratic candidate for U.S. senator in Colorado. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado on Wednesday announced his support for “changes” to the filibuster, as Senate Democrats move to take up voting rights legislation in the final weeks of the year.

“We’ve been here almost a year, and we’ve seen enough: It’s time to change the filibuster to protect voting rights,” Hickenlooper said in a statement released by his office. “Protecting the right to vote shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and we set out to work across the aisle. But three separate voting rights bills have failed in the Senate this year.”


Hickenlooper’s announcement came as Senate Democrats signaled they would postpone consideration of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” budget bill until next year, and instead move forward with legislation to protect voting rights.

Democrats have raised the alarm over moves by Republican state governments across the country to disenfranchise voters and seize control of electoral processes, an effort spurred by a wave of baseless conspiracy theories holding that widespread fraud denied former President Donald Trump victory in the 2020 election. But Democratic-sponsored legislation to safeguard voting rights has been repeatedly blocked by Republican use of the filibuster, a maneuver that requires a 60-vote supermajority to overcome.

Hickenlooper’s statement did not specify what kind of filibuster changes he supports. Many Democrats have called for it to be eliminated, while others have floated a return to a traditional “talking filibuster” that requires senators in the minority to hold the floor for a continuous period, rather than simply being invoked automatically.

But his statement did make reference to a recent deal struck by party leaders in the Senate that allowed a measure to raise the debt ceiling to pass with a bare majority.

“Voter disenfranchisement threatens our entire democracy,” Hickenlooper said. “If we can change the process on the debt ceiling, then surely we can do the same to protect our democracy.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado’s senior senator, had previously signaled an openness to filibuster reform but hadn’t explicitly endorsed eliminating it. On Wednesday a Bennet spokesperson confirmed to Newsline that Bennet supports elimination of the filibuster.

Any changes to the rules surrounding the filibuster would need the support of all 50 Democratic senators. Within minutes of Hickenlooper’s announcement on Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona reiterated her opposition to such changes, according to Politico.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:43 p.m., Dec. 15, 2021, to include new information about Sen. Michael Bennet’s position on the filibuster.


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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.