- Senate Democrats will delay votes on a pair of voting rights bills, which they try to pass next week.
- Once Republicans block them as expected, Democrats will consider changes to the filibuster that would allow the law to be passed by a simple majority.
- Democrats have called the legislation important after the January 6 Capitol attack and the passage of restrictive state voting laws.
- Republicans argue that the bills would give the federal government too much power over elections in states.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delayed votes on a pair of voting rights bills late Thursday, pushing back a debate on the chamber’s rules that would decide the fate of election reforms that would help the party defend American democracy. considers important.
The New York Democrat said the chamber would not take up legislation until Tuesday, citing “circumstances regarding Covid and another potentially dangerous winter storm” after Washington, DC Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tested positive for COVID-19. announced. Thursday. The Democrats will lack a simple majority unless they return to an equally divided Senate.
“Make no mistake, the United States Senate — the first time this is Congress — will debate voting rights legislation starting Tuesday,” Schumer said Thursday night. “The members of this chamber were elected to debate and vote, particularly on an issue that is vital to the beating heart of our democracy. And we will move on.”
Republicans plan to block two proposals, known as the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Once the bills fail, Democrats plan to consider ways to bypass the filibuster and push the proposals by a simple majority.
The strategy appears to be doomed. While all Senate Democrats have signed off on election legislation, at least two — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kirsten Cinema — have said they would not support the filibuster changes needed to pass it. Under current rules, Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to pass most laws.
CINEMA reiterated its stance on Thursday, saying, “Abolishing the 60-vote limit on a party line with a possible majority to pass these bills, which I support, will not guarantee that we will preserve democracy.” prevent you from winning.”
If the two centrist senators hold firm on the rule change, it appears impossible for Democrats to pass a series of reforms they see as vital to the security of the ballot. Provisions in the bills would expand early and mail-in voting, make automatic voter registration the national standard, establish Election Day as a national holiday and restore parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court.
It is now unclear how Democrats will proceed if they fail to eliminate the filibuster. Some Republicans have openly called for reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to make it harder for local officials to spoof election results.
The possibility surfaced last year as some GOP officials pushed to reverse the results of the swing-state presidential election based on false conspiracy theories from former President Donald Trump that widespread fraud hurt President Joe Biden.
Many Democrats have described the vote counting reforms as insufficient without changes to give more people access to the ballot in the first place. But making it harder to reverse the consequences may become the only option if their favorite bill fails.
Democrats have tried and failed to pass election bills several times last year because Trump’s election prompted the January 6 Capitol attack and contributed to the passing of restrictive voting laws in states such as Texas and Georgia. A year after pro-Trump crowds stormed the Capitol while Congress counted for Biden’s victory, the president showed a democracy at risk in a pair of speeches this month and called on the Senate to change its rules to protect elections. pressed for.
Biden met with Munchkin and the cinema for more than an hour on Thursday evening. “They had a frank and respectful exchange of views about the right to vote,” a White House official said.
The president met with Senate Democrats earlier in the day and voiced pessimism about his party’s chances of passing the voting rights bills.
“I hope we can get it done,” Biden said. “To God the honest answer is, I don’t know if we can accomplish this.”
Senate realities have indicated the bills will fail. But Democrats wanted to show their voters the effort to pass reforms as Trump tried to reverse the election and state legislatures passed laws that could disproportionately hurt voters of color.
Republicans have argued that Democratic bills will go too far. He has said the plans would give the federal government a lot of control over state elections.
Congress has in the past passed legislation to protect voting rights, specifically the Voting Rights Act that Democrats seek to reinstate.
The GOP has also given an exception to the filibuster as a fundamental change in the functioning of the Senate that would reduce the chances of lawmakers finding consensus.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday, “There is a way for my Democratic colleagues to respond to the nation, which they have greatly disappointed.” “This isn’t about trying to break up the Senate and rewrite election laws. It’s really about starting to tackle issues that American families need to deal with.”
As he saw the potential failure of the voting rights law, Biden resolved to continue trying to protect ballot access.
“Like every other major civil rights bill, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try a second time,” he said. “We missed this time.”