During her campaign for the US Senate, Heidi Heitkamp did her best to distance herself from her party. She trashed her party’s national platform, and distanced herself from liberal figures such as Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Since being elected, Heitamp has made the usual noises about bipartisanship and cooperation.
“I made this promise to every North Dakotan during the campaign and I want to make it again today: I will work as hard as I can to be a senator for each and every one of you,” Heitkamp said during her victory speech.
But one of Heitkamp’s first actions as a US Senator could be gutting the filibuster and clearing the way for Reid to steamroll Senate Republicans with the liberal agenda Heitkamp claimed to be skeptical of.
Right now, Senate Democrats are saying they’re short of the 51 votes needed to change the filibuster rule:
Democrats don’t have the 51 votes they need in the Senate to change filibuster rules that could make it harder for the GOP minority to wield power in the upper chamber. Lawmakers leading the charge acknowledge they remain short, but express optimism they’ll hit their goal. “I haven’t counted 51 just yet, but we’re working,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of the so-called constitutional or “nuclear” option, in which Senate rules could be changed by a majority vote.
But Heitkamp is part of an incoming class of Democrat Senators who have pledged to help end the filibuster:
The most likely time for Reid to use this option is at the beginning of the new Congress. Supporters call it the constitutional option, but it is well-known as the “nuclear” option for the meltdown in partisan relations that it could effect. All seven Democratic senators-elect — Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — have pledged to support filibuster reform. Sen.-elect Angus King (I-Maine) made filibuster reform a central plank of his campaign.
The filibuster issue will be the first real test of Heitkamp’s pledge of bipartisanship and working togetherness. It will be a little hard to believe she’s serious about those campaign promises if one of her first acts as a Senator is to destroy procedural protections for the minority party.
The party, Heitkamp should remember, that won every other statewide race on the ballot that gave her that narrow victory here in North Dakota.