WASHINGTON — Democrats are making a passionate bid to overhaul Senate rules that stand in the way of their sweeping voting law, arguing that dark forces about Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have stymied An extraordinary response is demanded.
In fiery speeches and interviews, President Joe Biden and top congressional Democrats have hailed the one-year anniversary of the January 6 uprising as a reason to push ahead with their long-stalled polling, ethics and election package. Senate Republicans, who have repeatedly blocked the law, hailed the measures as a “partisan power grab” and warned that any rule change would someday upset Democrats under a GOP majority.
Trump’s false claims of stolen election not only incited the crowd that stormed the Capitol. His relentless campaign of disinformation also led to a GOP effort to pass new state laws that made voting more difficult, while in some cases making the administration of elections more vulnerable to political influence.
Many Democrats say the time has come to act as decisively as the civil rights fight of that era. Changing Senate rules in early 2022 offers perhaps the last best chance to counter Republicans’ state-level push ahead of a midterm election, when Democrats could wipe out a House majority and a 50-50 Senate thin hold. .
“If Republicans…continue to hijack Senate rules to turn this chamber into a deep freezer, we are going to consider the appropriate steps necessary,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y. Called the Republican line on Monday. Argument’s “Gaslighting, Pure and Simple.”
His legislation would herald the biggest change in US elections in a generation, removing barriers to voting in the name of electoral security, reducing the influence of big money in politics, and limiting the partisan influence on the depiction of congressional districts. . The package would create national election standards that would trump state-level GOP laws. It would also restore the Justice Department’s ability to police election laws in states with a history of discrimination.
Yet what action they will take to advance the package is very uncertain, relying on the often elusive support of Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.VA. Prominent Democrats have been meeting with Munchkin for weeks, brainstorming options, while also enlisting outside aides to lobby for his support.
Manchin has not made any concrete commitments. He has repeatedly said he would not support lowering Filbuster’s 60-vote limit to pass most legislation, a stance shared by fellow centrist Kirsten Cinemas, D-Ariz. Unless this limit is brought down, making an election law may prove to be difficult, if not impossible.
But Democrats say they are focused on what can be achieved now, amid mounting pressure from allies to act. He says even a minor change in Senate rules would be an important step.
Leaning into the fight, Biden is set to deliver a speech focused on voting rights in Atlanta on Tuesday. And Schumer has added to the civil rights symbolism by setting January 17 as a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, either as a deadline to pass voting legislation or to consider revising the rules. The Senate is likely to hold a series of test votes this week aimed at underscoring Republican opposition.
If Democrats don’t reach an agreement with Munchkin by Monday’s holiday, they plan to go ahead with a vote on a rule change that would force senators to show where they stand, a Democrat Familiar with the plan said.
A proposal Democrats are discussing would eliminate filibuster on a so-called “move forward” motion that is required before a bill can be debated on the Senate floor.
“I’m not going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ because I don’t know which votes will go on the floor,” Manchin said last week. Noting that he has supported some changes to Senate rules in the past.
Republicans say revolting on January 6 is offensive. The voting bill, they say, was largely written before the attack and includes a liberal wish list of priorities that will do little to counter the weaknesses in the law exposed by Trump’s efforts to reverse the election.
“It is distasteful for some of our colleagues to call for a January 6 anniversary to advance these objectives,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “The fact that violent criminals have broken the law does not give Senate Democrats the authority to break the Senate.”
On Monday, McConnell warned Democrats that he would use the chamber’s complicated rules to force hard votes if minor rule changes are made. About a dozen bills he proposed for votes include measures to curtail Biden’s private-sector vaccine mandate; prevent so-called sanctuary cities from receiving federal grant money; and to make it easier for those convicted of murdering law enforcement officers to receive the death penalty.
“As Sen. Schumer tries to sabotage the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action will have immediate consequences,” McConnell said.
There is a renewed focus on voting rights as much of Biden’s agenda in Congress has stalled. Before Christmas, Munchkin alone halted work on a nearly $2 trillion package of Biden’s social and environmental initiatives, delaying the bill indefinitely.
Civil rights activists are deeply disappointed by the turn of events, saying that precious months have been wasted. They see GOP-backed changes to voting laws as a subtle form of ballot restrictions such as literacy tests and voting taxes, which were once used to deprive black voters, a major Democratic constituency.
“Unfortunately many policy makers don’t really appreciate the seriousness of this time in this country,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in an interview, detracting from Biden’s both White House and Senate Democrats. “African Americans have seen it before. We’ve experienced it before. We must move beyond procedural dialogue and get to the essence of protecting this delicate thing called democracy.”
McConnell scoffs at the “horror stories that liberal activists keep repeating about how democracy is at death’s door.” He recently jeopardized the prospect of narrow bipartisan action, a 19th-century law called the Electoral Counts Act, which regulates the certification of presidential elections—a law Trump has overturned in his 2020 defeat. sought to exploit. Compromising on that could be tempting for Munchkin, who has said that any election law should be enacted on a bipartisan basis.
Last week, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine held bipartisan talks with a group of senators that included Manchinum, as well as fellow Democrat Gene Shaheen of New Hampshire and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona. An update to the Electoral Count Act was part of the discussion, according to one person, who insisted on anonymity to reveal details about the deliberations.
Democrats have blasted the GOP overture on the Electoral Count Act as a “cynical” political maneuver that aims to do the bare minimum at the federal level while bypassing laws in GOP-controlled swing states like Georgia.
“What’s the use of certifying the election, if I didn’t get a chance to cast my vote in the first place?” Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, the first African American to represent Georgia in the Senate. He is contesting again this year.