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Nevada Sen. Cortez Masto on why the filibuster rule should change

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The late senator and Democratic leader, Harry Reid, who lies in state at the U.S. Capitol today, would have agreed that the Senate rules should change. He famously fought for and won a change in Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for judicial appointments. Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto was mentored by Reid. She holds his Senate seat, and I asked her yesterday if she agrees that the filibuster should go.

CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO: I've been clear that we need to reform the filibuster, which is why I've called for a return to the talking filibuster. I think it is important that if a senator is going to oppose key legislation like voting rights or like any other important legislation that is needed in this country, that they should have to stand on the floor of the Senate and explain why they're opposing those efforts so that the American people know the position that a senator has taken. I think there should be a transparency around this, and it's not happening right now. Rachel, unfortunately, with respect to key important legislation, a senator can just oppose it from their office. And it doesn't move, doesn't go anywhere, and the American public has no idea why it's not moving.

MARTIN: Let me ask, would you support getting rid of the filibuster altogether, as an increasing number of your Democratic colleagues do?

CORTEZ MASTO: I've called for a talking filibuster because I think there is an opportunity to bring both sides together to restore the Senate to the time when we debate important issues.

MARTIN: Is that no?

CORTEZ MASTO: So from my perspective, I think it is important that - I've heard from my colleagues, and there's reasonable arguments on both sides. And so to me, the compromise here to get everybody behind this is a talking filibuster to restore that debate.

MARTIN: Do you think there are the votes in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster?

CORTEZ MASTO: We will find out.

MARTIN: I'd like to pivot now, if we could, because another senator from Nevada is lying in state today at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, someone you knew well, the late Harry Reid. He died last month at the age of 82. Is there a favorite personal memory you have of him that you wouldn't mind sharing?

CORTEZ MASTO: Senator Reid had this - and I say this - it's an uncanny ability to know when to call you at just the right time, when you needed that support or you just needed affirmation or to commiserate on an issue. And to this day, I still carry a recording of him when he called me one of those times and I wasn't able to pick up the phone, but he left a message for me, telling me how proud he was of me, of something that I had done. And yes, he was a fighter. Yes, you know, he - as former President Obama said, he could be irascible and just, you know, make you mad at times. But he was just there for the right reasons, because of his background and where he came from, and he wanted other families and other people to have those opportunities of the American dream that he had. I mean, he's the epitome of what people come to this country for, this - the American dream or what - you grow up, and you become a success from hard work and opportunity in this country.

MARTIN: Is the current Congress living up to the expectations that he had for its ability to do right by the American people?

CORTEZ MASTO: Well, one thing I knew about Senator Reid - he believed in the institutions. He believed in our democracy and our government. There is a role for Congress to play. And he was very effective in not only protecting that role, but getting things done. And there's no doubt in my mind right now, we have to remember that. We have to remember - not only as January 6 came and went, and so many of us not only lived through that day, but also watched it unfold on TV - that we are being tested right now, our democratic institutions, and we all have a role, particularly here in Congress and in Washington, to play in protecting that democracy and speaking the truth to what happened there and holding people accountable.

MARTIN: U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat from Nevada, we so appreciate your time. Thank you.

CORTEZ MASTO: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.