In this week’s fact-check of North Carolina politics, we turn our attention to next year’s race for the United States Senate. During a campaign event at Duke University last month, Democratic candidate and former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, Cheri Beasley, was asked about her stance on filibuster reform. In her response, Beasley said she was previously misquoted on the subject. She added, “We need filibuster reform, and I’ve always been very clear about it. To verify this, WFAE Morning Edition host Marshall Terry speaks with WRAL’s Paul Specht.
Marshal Terry: First of all, Paul, what exactly is a filibuster and why are some lawmakers calling for his reform?
Paul Specht: Filing is therefore a tool that can be used in the United States Senate, and it has changed a bit over time. It is well known that it is something that any senator can do to delay or delay action on a bill. And historically, they had to do it by talking continuously for hours. These days, they don’t even have to. They can simply say that they are opposed to a bill under consideration. They let their party leader know that they are doing it. And then to put an end to this blockade, to this systematic obstruction rule, the senators need 60 votes in favor.
That’s what makes it so effective if you want to block things out, because it’s hard to get 60 votes on anything, especially in a Senate as divided as the one we have now where it’s 50- 50.
Thierry: So what kind of filibuster reform do some lawmakers and candidates want?
Speech : They’re mostly Democrats, and they’re saying that, you know, there’s an urgent need to restore voting rights. They want to expand access to voting, things like postal ballots and voting without excuse (absent). This is one thing Cheri Beasley, in particular, brought up when she said: Hey, this topic, voting rights are so important that we can’t have any tool in our way. It should be large enough to get around one of those just operational hurdles that have been built into the system.
Some Democrats would like to see the filibuster removed completely. Other people say, you know, maybe he should only be reformed to maybe go back to his old ways, make you have to stand and talk for hours on end to make it really effective. And others say, you know, maybe there should be some more exclusions.
Thierry: So Beasley said during that campaign event that she had previously been misquoted on her take on filibuster, that she was in favor of filibuster reform and that she, according to his own words, has always been very clear about this. Has she?
Speech : We didn’t think so. You know, when we started in May, when she interviewed the WFAE, she was asked if she would remove the filibuster in order to pass HR 1, which is a voting rights bill. And she said, I’m glad to take a look. She went on to say that there should be no hurdles going through this, but didn’t really commit to changing there.
Later in June, speaking to WXII TV, they asked WXII again, “Would you vote to end the filibuster just to pass HR 1, this voting rights bill?” She said: “I would definitely think about the relevance of this.”
There are several instances where she just hesitated to take a stand on this, and as her campaign grew and time went on, she got a bit more specific. Finally, in September, declaring that she wanted to carve out a niche for herself and would consider sweeping filibuster reforms. And then on October 22, she was in a video forum and said, “We need to have filibuster reform.” These are his words. And then, on October 28, she came out and declared that she supported “the complete elimination” of the filibuster.
So that’s quite a development between her interview with the WFAE in May and October 28, when she stepped out and said she supported total elimination.
Thierry: Now she said she was misquoted on her take on filibuster reform. How? ‘Or’ What?
Speech : When we contacted her campaign, they said she was referring to a Daily Beast article. It’s a website, and they ran an article on September 1 and their headline read “New footage shows North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate praising filibuster.” To rent obstruction. And so we looked at the quotes in the story, and they are correct.
She disputed this word “laud”. She didn’t think his comments met the definition. And we looked for the definition. “To praise” means to praise or exalt. We went back and watched her webinar that she had had where she made those filibuster comments. And basically, she just pointed out that it had been used by Democrats to block what they thought was harmful Republican legislation in the past. In other words, she just points out, hey, Republicans are using her to block what we think is good. Democrats have used it in the past to block what we think is wrong.
Thierry: Now, you mentioned Beasley’s position on filibuster reform, that it is for the complete elimination of filibuster. What are some of his opponents in the Democratic primary saying about filibuster reform? Where are they standing?
Speech : On the Democrats’ side in this primary, there are several candidates, but there are three candidates in the lead, at least there were until recently. Beasley, who said she would look at reform, then recently spoke out against filibuster. State Senator Jeff Jackson he first came out and said he wanted to watch and see what Republican Leader Mitch McConnell would do in this first year of Biden’s presidency. And he told us that he supported the complete elimination of filibuster.
And then the third, until recently, was former lawmaker Erica Smith. Now she was the first to say that she fully supported the elimination of the filibuster. And so for months now people have been putting Jackson and Beasley to the test and saying, hey, Smith is backing total elimination, why not you? But Smith, as of this week, announced that she would run for Congress instead. So now, which leaves North Carolina with the top two U.S. Senate candidates on the Democratic side, Jackson and Beasley, both want to eliminate filibuster completely.
Thierry: So how did you assess this statement from Cheri Beasley?
Speech : She said, if you remember, “we need filibuster reform. I’ve always been very clear about it.” We didn’t think she was very clear on this. And if you go back and look at his comments, if you read our story, we present it very easily as a list. Between May and October, her position changed, and at times she was even accused of dodging questions by the WXII. And so we rated this claim as “mostly false”.
Thierry: Okay, Paul, thank you.
Speech : Thank you.
Thierry: This is Paul Specht from WRAL. These fact checks are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them on Wednesday on the morning edition of the WFAE.