Politics

Manchin, Sinema Join Gop To Sink Filibuster Change For Voting Bill

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Senate Democrats failed to change the legislative filibuster for a voting bill on Wednesday night, after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voted with Republicans to oppose the rules reform, handing President Biden and the party a stinging defeat. Senators voted 52-48 to defeat the proposal. To have been successful, Democrats would need total unity from all 50 of their members, plus Vice President Harris to break a tie.

The outcome of the vote was telegraphed, but it marks a defeat of Democrats’ months-long push to pass voting rights legislation, even if it meant changing the rules so they could do it alone. 

Even as the effort appeared poised to fall short, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) poured time and political capital into the fight.

Biden went to Georgia earlier this month to urge Senate Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, and change the Senate’s rules if necessary, and made a similar pitch to the caucus during a closed-door meeting last week. 

Schumer has talked up the issue both on the Senate floor, during a blitz of TV appearances and back in New York this week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations. Democrats were under pressure to hold the vote, regardless of the outcome, to show that they were all-in on voting rights.

Schumer made a final plea to his own party after Republicans blocked a voting bill on Wednesday night that would have combined the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls elections and campaign finance laws, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would expand and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

“The only choice to move forward on these vital issues is to change the rules in the modest way we have proposed. My colleagues, history is watching us. Let us choose in favor of our democracy,” Schumer said. Under the rules change proposal, Democrats would have gotten rid of the 60-vote hurdle currently required for most legislation, but only for the voting rights bill. Instead, opponents could delay the election legislation by holding the floor but after that it could pass by a simple majority.

Schumer picked up support for the proposal, which he announced on Tuesday night, throughout Wednesday. 

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who had previously said he would study the issue, announced on Wednesday morning that he would support the rules change proposal. 

“If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote. Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction,” Kelly said in a statement.

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Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who hasn’t yet committed to using the nuclear option to chan… (Read more)

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