Plan To Bypass Senate GOP & Pass Voting Rights Revealed By Democrats

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has outlined a plan for beginning debate in the Senate on two major pieces of legislation that would enact substantial, new protections for voting rights at the federal level — although ending debate and moving to a final vote would still be subject to the Senate’s filibuster rules, which require 60 votes in the 100-member chamber for many moves. At that point, Democratic leaders appear to be planning for a confrontation over the filibuster, since combining the close party breakdown in the chamber with Republicans’ refusals to back the voting rights pushes means that without a rules change, the measures won’t even have a chance to pass — even if 51 votes could be cast in support.

As explained by The Washington Post, the plan for starting debate on the measures — which would ordinarily be subject to the filibuster rules — involves “having the House amend an existing, unrelated bill dealing with NASA and sending it back to the Senate.” The amendments would attach the proposed voting rights protections — including those found in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act — to the bill. Under those conditions, just 51 votes have to be cast in favor of starting debate for the process to get moving. In a memo to his colleagues, Schumer asked as follows:

‘If the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? In the coming days, we will most likely confront this sobering question — together.’

Democrats could change the Senate’s filibuster rules to pass the voting rights measures, but so-called moderates including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) keep standing in the way, clinging to the filibuster rather than the opportunities provided by changing how things are done. Schumer said that “Manchin and Sinema are talking to us, and we are going to hope to get this done. It is too important to drop.” That’s a crux of this push.

Holding a vote on whether to change the Senate’s rules to allow for passing voting rights legislation will allow Senators including Manchin and Sinema to clearly establish their positions. As Schumer observed, “Senators can finally make clear to the American people where they stand on protecting our democracy and preserving the right of every eligible American to cast a ballot.” Sinema could be in particular jeopardy — there’s already a movement in her home state to launch a challenge against her in the next Democratic primary race for her seat.