In a post on Twitter on Wednesday, the New York Democratic representative claimed that Democratic senators should put less attention on trying to reach an agreement with Republicans on an infrastructure bill or other measures and instead push through those items through the infrequently used reconciliation process, which lets Democrats avoid the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. That process allowed the evenly split Democratic-controlled Senate to push the American Rescue Plan earlier this year.
Ocasio-Cortez said that Democrats are “burning precious time & impact negotiating w/GOP” and that “McConnell’s plan is to run out the clock.”
“During the Obama administration, folks thought we’d have a 60 Dem majority for a while. It lasted 4 months,” she said, a reference to when Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy died unexpectedly.
Ocasio-Cortez was in college and an intern for Kennedy’s office at the time of his death, making her personally familiar with the political impact of his death.
In 2009, the 111th Congress began with a Senate breakdown of 56 Democrats, 47 Republicans, two independents who caucused with Democrats and were completely added as Democrats, and one vacant seat due to the Minnesota Senate election being so close.
But then Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched parties from Republican to Democrat, and Al Franken was ultimately seated as the senator from Minnesota in early July.
That brought the Democrats to an effective 60-vote supermajority that allowed them to bypass the Republican filibuster, leading to landmark legislation such as the Affordable Care Act.
But then Kennedy died quickly of a brain tumor on August 25.
Another Democrat was selected to take Kennedy’s place momentarily, but then Republican Scott Brown won a special election to succeed Kennedy, taking away the filibuster-proof majority.
“It’s a hustle. We need to move now,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The current Senate has the oldest average age in history — 64.3 years at the beginning of this year. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the oldest, turning 88 on June 22. Some question whether she is still mentally equipped enough to be in Congress. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is the second-oldest, turning 88 in September.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, another Democrat, is 81. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had a heart attack in 2019 when he was running for president, turns 80 this year.
Another possibility is that a Democrat switches parties. That concern has urged some progressive activists to warn against putting too much pressure on West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate whose opposition to ending the filibuster peeves many on the Left.