U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) arrives for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Budget Committee Democrats in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol building on June 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images
- Sen. Tim Kaine joked that filibuster reform talks are going “as slow as my commute.”
- Kaine was among hundreds of motorists trapped on Virginia’s I-95 due to dangerous weather.
- The Virginia Democrat is part of a group working on reforming Senate rules to pass voting rights.
Sen. Tim Kaine spent nearly 27 hours in his car amid freezing temperatures and dangerous driving conditions on his way to the US Capitol — only to return to find Senate Democrat’s legislative agenda also on ice.
The Virginia Democrat quipped to reporters on Wednesday that ongoing talks among Democrats on reforming the Senate filibuster rules to advance voting rights legislation are going “slow as my commute,” according to CNN’s Ali Zaslav.
Kaine was among hundreds of motorists stranded on I-95 for over 24 hours after a heavy snowfall on Monday created dangerously icy conditions on the road, leading to accidents and a miles-long backup of cars. Sustained by only an orange and barely any sleep, the senator posted updates from his journey on Twitter until he finally arrived at the US Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.
“At some point, it switched from a miserable travel day into a kind of a survival-mode day for me,” Kaine, calling in to CNN from the road, said on Tuesday. “Now that I’m 90 minutes from the office, I plan on eating a lot and using the restroom as soon as I pull in.”
—Ali Zaslav (@alizaslav) January 5, 2022
Democrats, including Kaine, have turned their focus to reforming the procedural rules governing the Senate in response to Republicans filibustering three major voting rights and democracy reform bills in 2021. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to hold a vote on yet-to-be-determined rules changes on or before Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 17.
The vast majority of legislation in the Senate requires a three-fifths majority under the current filibuster rules. Senate Democrats, including Schumer, have slammed their Republican colleagues for refusing to debate any voting rights legislation.
The filibuster reforms being discussed include creating a carve out to allow voting rights legislation to pass with a simple majority, returning to the talking filibuster, and lowering the threshold on motions to proceed to debate legislation, according to Schumer.
Democrats can invoke the so-called nuclear option as the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did in 2013. This option allows a party to bypass traditional Senate procedure to change existing rules, like the filibuster, with only a simple majority.
But Sen. Joe Manchin, a key swing vote who voted against that 2013 rule change, remains skeptical of making rules changes along party lines and is worried that lowering the filibuster threshold could backfire on Democrats when they’re back in the minority.
“It’s very difficult, it’s a heavy lift,” Manchin told reporters outside his office on Tuesday. “Once you change rules or have a carve out … and I’ve always said this: Anytime there’s a carve out, you eat the whole turkey, there’s nothing left, because it comes back. So you want things that’ll be sustainable.”
Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona, another Democrat who has echoed Manchin’s concerns about a voting rights carve out, is also opposed to lowering the threshold to advance to debate below a three-fifths majority, Axios reports.