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Bernie Sanders says he would support primary challengers to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema if they continue to oppose scrapping filibuster

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Bernie Sanders at the Capitol on July 29, 2020.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

  • Bernie Sanders said he’s open to supporting primary challengers to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
  • The moderate duo have been stalling Democrats’ agenda for months and oppose changing the filibuster.
  • “They’re gonna have to go home and explain to their constituents,” Sanders said.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont opened the door on Tuesday to supporting primary challengers to Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

Speaking with reporters ahead of a caucus meeting, Sanders said the stakes for scrapping the Senate filibuster rules — which require 60 votes to end debate and thus gives Senate Republicans the power to block major pieces of legislation — are high.

“What’s at stake is the future of American democracy,” said Sanders. “And the fact that all over this country, Republican governors and legislators are moving aggressively to suppress the vote and to impose extreme gerrymandering, among many other things.”

“Anybody who believes in American democracy has got to vote to enable us to go forward with 50 votes to suspend the filibuster, at least on this vote,” he added.

Democrats are pushing reforms to the Senate filibuster to ensure passage of major voting rights legislation, but both Manchin and Sinema have made their opposition clear to lowering the current 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation.

Asked by Punchbowl News what Sanders thought about potential primary challenges for the duo, and any other senators who oppose changing filibuster rules, he left it up to voters.

“There’s a very good chance that people in those states— it’s up to the people in those states but it’s not just even the voting rights,” he said. Asked whether he himself would support a primary challenger, Sanders answered in the affirmative without elaborating further.

“Well, yeah, I would,” he said.

Progressive Democrats are increasingly looking for a candidate to challenge Sinema in 2024 following her reaffirmation of her opposition to changing Senate filibuster rules last week, with Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona emerging as a strong potential primary contender. Another shoe dropped for Sinema on Tuesday when EMILY’s List, a group that backs pro-choice Democrats for office, said it would not endorse Sinema for reelection in 2024 if she continued to oppose filibuster reforms. 

As for Manchin, he said at a press conference outside his office on Tuesday that he doesn’t mind the prospect of a challenger. “Bring it on,” he said when asked about the prospect.

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