The Senate was heading towards a showdown over voting rights legislation and rule changes on Wednesday, although Democratic leaders admitted they did not yet have the numbers to pass bills or change the rules to bypass a GOP obstruction.
“We are not there yet,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said Wednesday morning. “I wouldn’t fool anyone into thinking it’s easy, but we’re trying to get to a place where 50 senators can support two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act, and with a change in the rules so that we can get the votes to pass these bills.
In a letter to colleagues earlier this month, Schumer promised the chamber would debate and consider changes to Senate rules by Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, if Republicans refused to work with it. Democrats on voting rights legislation. Senate Republicans rejected the Democrats’ proposals as a federal election takeover.
Republican-led state legislatures across the country have enacted new election laws in the wake of the 2020 election, making it more difficult to vote. Republicans argue that so-called “voter integrity” policies, such as requiring voter ID to vote and limiting drop boxes, are aimed at restoring confidence in the election after President Trump wrongly claimed widespread electoral fraud.
Democrats described GOP policies as voter suppression and “Jim Crow 2.0,” noting that many of the new laws disproportionately affect people who tend to vote Democratic, such as younger voters, people of color. and people with disabilities.
To fight the new legislation in the states, Congressional Democrats are considering two voting rights bills. The first, the Freedom to Vote Act, would expand voter registration with automatic and same-day registration, and increase access to polling stations by expanding early voting and postal voting. It would also make election day a federal holiday and include additional provisions on congressional redistribution and campaign finance.
The other measure, the John R. Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act – named after the late civil rights icon – would create new criteria for determining which states must receive prior approval from the Ministry of Justice or United States District Court for the District of Columbia before enacting laws that would affect voting rights. The measure also includes protections for election workers, polling stations and electoral infrastructure.
President Biden, in a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, endorsed reform of Senate Democrats’ filibustering. He warned that history would not look positively on those who voted against the voting rights legislation.
“I ask all American elected officials: do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Biden said. “On the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?” On the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?
House Democrats, who passed the Lewis Bill in August, applauded the president’s forceful speech. President Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) warned the nation faces “the most dangerous assault on voting since Jim Crow.”
“The need to protect our democracy could not be more urgent,” she said in a statement. “Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.”
Given the overwhelming opposition from Senate Republicans, however, Senate Democrats cannot pass either of the two bills without changing the rules that currently require 60 votes to overcome obstruction and pass most laws. Democratic and Republican Senate leaders have already cleared the filibuster for judicial and Supreme Court appointments.
But the senses. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) have so far resisted efforts to drop filibuster for the legislation.
Manchin acknowledged on Tuesday that “for this place to work better, we need rule changes.” He told reporters this week that the motion to proceed, a procedural vote in the Senate to determine whether to open debate on a bill, should be a simple majority instead of 60 votes.
He also signaled an opening to a so-called speaking obstruction, which would force opponents of a bill to speak continuously in order to block it, or a rule that would only require three-fifths of the members actually present at a vote to overcome an obstruction. , rather than the currently fixed 60 votes.
“To shatter the opportunity for the minority to participate fully, that’s just not who we are,” Manchin said. “I am not for breaking the filibuster. But I am in favor of making the place work better by changing the rules.
A group of Democrats met with Sinema for two and a half hours on Tuesday evening, according to Schumer, and Schumer joined that same group in a one-hour meeting with Manchin on Wednesday morning.
Los Angeles Times