A day after saying that Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff had assured him and fellow San Diego Democrats that she was working on a “carve-out” or “similar mechanism” to end the filibuster of voting rights bills, a member of Hillcrest Indivisible took it back.
Indivisible activist John Mattes said Friday: “I am sorry if I misspoke re the senator’s staff articulating a solution re the filibuster.”
Mattes’ goal: finding a way to neuter U.S. Senate rules that force nonbudgetary measures to win 60 votes for passage — rather than 50 plus the vice president’s tie-breaker. A carve-out would end filibusters in certain cases.
Feinstein’s office never said how they would accomplish passage of a pair of voting rights bills, he said.
“They only said they support passage,” Mattes said of a face-to-face meeting with Feinstein San Diego district director* Bill Kratz. “How … they do that I do not know.”
Kratz and the California senior senator’s press secretary didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday. But minutes after Mattes issued his apology, press aide Tom Mentzer said Kratz reiterated the senator’s support for the voting rights bills.
He directed readers to her most recent statement.
On March 19, the 88-year-old senator said in a statement: “I don’t want to turn away from Senate traditions, but I also don’t believe one party should be able to prevent votes on important bills by abusing the filibuster.”
But pressure has built among progressive groups for stronger action. A week ago, about 50 protesters chanted outside Feinstein’s San Diego office, urging her to end the filibuster.
“San Diego-area Indivisible groups joined others around the country asking legislators this week to eliminate the filibuster and pass the For the People Act, a bill that expands voter access and addresses election integrity and security,” reported The San Diego Union-Tribune.
On Thursday, Hillcrest Indivisible said members have been calling Feinstein’s office demanding she “end the Jim Crow filibuster.”
Mattes, a former Bernie-Sanders-for-president surrogate, said Thursday that the group — also including Jean Dittmyer, Kathy Archibald, Marely Ramirez, Tama Becker-Varano and Larry Cousins — called on Feinsstein to join their fight.
“Today she responded,” said the group, discussing the need to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Feinstein called the right to vote the cornerstone of American democracy.
“Unfortunately, that sacred right is under attack in many Republican-controlled legislatures around the country. It’s time for Congress to act,” she said, noting the nearly 400 so-called voter suppression bills introduced in 48 states.
“Republicans are pushing these laws under the guise of election security, but the truth is our election systems are already secure and widespread voter fraud simply doesn’t exist,” she added.
“That’s why Congress must pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure all Americans are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote. We must find a path forward on these two bills because the future of our democracy is at stake.”
Feinstein’s statement followed by two days President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia calling for federal protection of voting rights — but not mentioning the filibuster.
Mattes said Hillcrest Indivisible was one of multiple San Diego County groups involved in the effort to recruit Feinstein on filibuster reform.
“This is a statewide effort of 50 Indivisible groups working together,” he said via email. “All of her offices were part of our effort involving calls and meetings with her staff this week.”
Mattes said that after a monthlong campaign, “we had a detailed ask and part of it was a public commitment to fight for the bill.” Among their demands: that Feinstein meet with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of two Democrats (along with Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema) seen as roadblocks to filibuster rule changes.
He added: “Our position is we don’t care how they do it, but they must do it. … Our bottom line is she has to get in the fight now.”
*An earlier version of this report incorrectly referred to Bill Kratz as Feinstein’s chief of staff.
Updated at 1 :35 p.m. July 16, 2021