The push for federal voting rights legislation appears stymied, after Senate Republicans blocked an elections bill in the chamber last night and Democrats were unsuccessful in weakening the Senate’s filibuster rules to pass the legislation by a simple majority.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been blocked on several attempts to pass voting rights legislation, which he and many Democrats believe necessary to combat voting changes enacted in Republican-led states.
Last night, Schumer held a vote to close debate on a voting rights bill that failed on party lines. Schumer then moved to reconsider the legislation to propose a rules change allowing for the bill’s advancement with a simple majority. That vote was rejected 48-52, with two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joining all 50 Republican senators in opposition.
The opposition from Manchin and Sinema was not unexpected, though Schumer pressed ahead. “Even if you think the filibuster is a good thing, isn’t protecting voting rights and preventing their diminution more important?” Schumer said Wednesday night. “Particularly when this rule was not always in existence and not envisioned by the founders.”
Manchin explained why he opposes changing the filibuster without bipartisan support. “I cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country, not to divide our country,” Manchin said last night. “And putting politics and party aside is what we’re supposed to do. It’s time to do the hard work to forge a difficult compromise that can stand the test of time.”
Yesterday, President Biden acknowledged that the Senate was unlikely to carve out a procedural change to pass a voting rights bill but said Democrats are “not out of options” and would continue to look for ways to combat changes to state voting laws leading up to the midterm elections.
“I’ve been engaged for a long time in public policy and I don’t know many things that have been done in one fell swoop,” Biden said. “But it’s going to be difficult. I make no bones about that. It’s going to be difficult.”