New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Democrats need to “crack down” on the “very entitled, very privileged” Senate after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s announcement that he would not back President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act social spending plan.
Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez called the way the upper chamber operates “unconscionable,” “fundamentally undemocratic”, and said the time of indulging in long-running negotiations over bills that would nonetheless be opposed by all Republicans must end.
“What we really need to do is crack down on the Senate – which operates like an old boy’s club that has a couple of gals in it that have managed to break through – and we need … implement some institutional discipline,” she said.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s comments came just one day after Mr Manchin appeared on Fox News Sunday to announce that he could not support Mr Biden’s $1.8trn social spending package, bringing an abrupt end to months of back-and-forth between the only Democrat to win state-wide in West Virginia in years and the White House, which on Sunday issued a blistering statement denouncing what Press Secretary Jen Psaki called “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate”.
The two-term Democratic congresswoman suggested that the body in which she serves – the House of Representatives – was the only truly democratic part of the US government’s three branches, and the only one that was “delivering an agenda for the people”.
She also called for Mr Biden to be “more forceful” in pressuring senators to abandon the “two-track” system the Senate has operated under since 1970, in which merely the threat of a filibuster can derail a bill without any further action by the senator looking to hold up legislation, and return to the so-called talking filibuster which required senators to hold the floor and speak continuously. She also suggested that Mr Biden make further use of his own authority as president to go around Congress to accomplish their party’s goals if need be.
“We have to break those cultural norms that the Senate is very entitled, very privileged and very protected, and say we are not going to allow that deference to membership just because of the self-importance of the institution,” she said.
“We need to govern, and we are going to actually have consequences, and the concern is that if there are no consequences to this kind of betrayal of working families across the country, of the president of the United States, of the party that one is a part of, then it encourages more egregious behaviour like this which will make it impossible to govern.”