With Democrats setting their sites on reclaiming a U.S. Senate majority in Washington, many in the party are debating whether it is worth changing the chamber’s rules to make it easier to pass sweeping legislation.
State Sen. Barbara Bollier is a key part of national Democrats’ plans for retaking the upper chamber, with polls showing a tight race in her matchup with Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall.
But Bollier said Wednesday at a campaign stop in Topeka that she is taking a wait-and-see approach on whether or not to end the filibuster, a potentially controversial move favored by some members of her party.
"We’ll have to talk about it and find out," Bollier said in an interview. "Every decision you make has implications and it is very important before you vote on anything to look on from this level to the next and on down and what the ramifications are."
While seemingly a question more suited for Washington policy wonks, the matter could have significant policy ramifications.
Currently, passing most legislation in the Senate requires 60 members to move to end debate and proceed to a vote. The genesis of the rule was to encourage a spirit of bipartisanship and compromise among members.
But if Democrats regain control of the chamber, it will be almost certainly with fewer than 60 members, leading some in the party to push for changing the rule in order to better pursue the caucus’s agenda.
Bollier joked that the only people she hears the filibuster question from are reporters.
But she has also supported a public option to allow middle-income Americans to opt-in to public health care if they choose.
To successfully pass legislation creating a public option or addressing climate change, another one of Bollier’s stated priorities, progressives argue that dumping the filibuster will be necessary.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hasn’t committed himself on the issue, saying that "nothing is off the table" were Vice President Joe Biden to win the White House.
"We will do what it takes to get this done. I’m hopeful, maybe if (President Donald) Trump goes and (Mitch) McConnell is no longer leader, some Republicans might work with us. But we’re going to have to get it done, whether they work with us or not," Schumer said in August.
Other Democrats who have expressed skepticism about ending the practice in the past, including U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., have said they were open to change in recent months.
One potential barrier is Biden, who has previously expressed optimism that ending the filibuster wouldn’t be necessary to carry out his agenda.
"There are a number of areas where you can reach consensus that relate to things like cancer and health care and a whole range of things," he told the New York Times editorial board last year. "I think we can reach consensus on that and get it passed without changing the filibuster rule."
Marshall has said he opposes a number of potential reforms to the U.S. Senate, including an end to the filibuster.
"Democrats are promising to end the filibuster, expand and pack the Supreme Court, and grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, which will add four Democrat U.S. Senators and guarantee themselves a Senate majority for generations to come," Marshall wrote in a Wichita Eagle op-ed last month.
He noted in the piece that a conservative Supreme Court is needed to guard against those outcomes.
Bollier has maintained, however, that she wants to learn more from her potential colleagues in Washington about the ramifications of ending the filibuster.
And, she said, the issue wasn’t on the minds of voters with whom she has spoken.
"I have been busy listening to the needs of Kansans and it is not their No. 1 issue," Bollier said. "Health care and health care reform is."