Biden Plots Voting Rights Strategy With Manchin, Democrats
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden discussed changing Senate filibuster rules to gain traction on voting rights legislation with a group of Democratic allies on Thursday, including Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Biden and the Democrats are considering changes to the filibuster, which allows a minority of senators to easily block debate on legislation. Republicans four times this year have denied Senate consideration of bills drafted by Democrats that would allow automatic voter registration, bar partisan “gerrymandering” of congressional districts and make other changes.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who participated in the video conference with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, said that some filibuster changes under consideration “make total common sense.”
“We’re just calling for restoring the Senate to debate the fundamental issue of our day, which is our own democracy,” she said.
She wouldn’t say if Biden backed any particular rules change. He told the lawmakers that he wants the Senate to function again, she said.
Senate Democrats are considering a turn toward voting rights after the president’s economic agenda, called Build Back Better, stalled in large part over Manchin’s objections. Biden indicated to reporters on Wednesday that he’d support the Senate delaying a vote on Build Back Better if Democrats believe they can accomplish a voting rights overhaul.
The person familiar with the matter asked not to be identified because the meeting wasn’t publicly announced. It was reported earlier Thursday by NBC News.
Republican-dominated legislatures in several states have tightened access to the ballot after former President Donald Trump’s false allegations that Biden’s election was fraudulent. Both parties have also sought to redraw congressional districts, where possible, to reduce their opponents’ representation in the House -- a competition in which Republicans are seen having an edge.
Senate Democrats lack the votes to change the filibuster rules to enable legislation to pass with a simple majority, a move that would allow Democrats significantly more control over the agenda in a Senate now split 50-50 between the two political parties. Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Manchin have said they wouldn’t vote to change Senate rules to do that. So has Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Requiring a so-called “talking filibuster” might be the easiest way to get backing from Manchin, Sinema and King because it wouldn’t require doing away with the 60-vote rule. But it’s not clear they would support it, or that doing so would eventually result in legislation reaching Biden’s desk.
Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who also participated in the meeting, said that Democrats “understand the moment is urgent and we’ve got to get this done.”
“We’re watching all kinds of gerrymandering happen right now and people are losing their voices every single day,” Warnock said. “I’d like to see us at least have a path forward to voting rights before we leave for Christmas.”
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