Schumer to Press for Senate Vote on Changing Filibuster Rule
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to use the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 letterinsurrection at the U.S. Capitol to push for changing the Senate’s filibuster rule as Democrats try to move forward on voting rights legislation.
In a letter Monday to fellow Democrats, Schumer said last year’s attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters underscores the risks to democracy if more constraints on voters are put in place by states. He said the Senate will debate and vote on changing Senate filibuster rules by Jan. 17, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness - an effort to delegitimize our election process, and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration – they will be the new norm,” Schumer wrote.
The anniversary of the riot, which interrupted Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote in the 2020 presidential election, has become a rallying point for Democrats in their effort to get their legislation to expand voting rights through Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans a series of events on that day.
But the voting bill is opposed by Republicans, who have used the filibuster rule in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to move forward with most legislation, to block it.
Schumer so far has lacked the votes to change the filibuster rules to enable legislation to pass with a simple majority agenda in a Senate now split 50-50 between the two political parties. Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have said they wouldn’t vote to change Senate rules to do that.
Requiring a so-called “talking filibuster” might be the easiest way to get backing from Manchin and Sinema 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 President Joe Biden’s desk.
“We must adapt,” Schumer said. “The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history.”
Republicans four times last year denied Senate consideration of bills drafted by Democrats that would allow automatic voter registration, bar partisan “gerrymandering” of congressional districts, allow Justice Department review of some state voting law rewrites and make other changes.
Republican-dominated legislatures in several states have tightened access to the ballot after 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 Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have defended the actions of GOP-led legislatures and have said Democrats exaggerate their impact on minority voters. McConnell has vowed to keep Republicans united against the Democrat-drafted voting rights legislation.
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