Saturday, June 10, 2023

Voting Rights Law Fails as Manchin and Sinema Back GOP Against Filibuster Changes

The year-long search for a new voting rights law is likely to end in the Senate on Wednesday, with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kirsten Sinema (Arizona) almost certain to side with the 50 Republicans against a Senate change. filibuster rules allowing the bill to pass.

The expected failure will come as a bitter disappointment to Democrats, who argued that its passage was all that stood in the way of a new era of voter suppression laws in Republican-led states inspired by former President Donald Trump’s campaign lies. These new laws represent “Jim Crow 2.0,” President Joe Biden said on Jan. 11, as states “make it harder to vote” and make partisan decisions about “whether your vote counts at all.”

After the Senate failed to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, these laws, which restrict voting access and, in Georgia, allow supporters to purge local election commissions, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The version of the law passed by the House of Representatives is a combination of the Voting Freedom Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Extension Act. It would have to establish federal voter access rules requiring states to allow early and absentee voting, online and automated voter registration, make Election Day a holiday, and restore voting rights to former criminals, among other things.

The bill would also restore sections of the historic Voting Rights Act gutted by Supreme Court decisions in 2013 and 2021 and would provide affirmative voting rights and ballot access that could be enforced in court. In addition, the measure contained restrictions on party fraud and a ban on not disclosing dark money in elections.

Senate majority leader chuck schumer (dn. Y. ) vowed that "everything is on the table" enact a voting rights law in 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) vowed “everything is in place” for the passage of voting rights legislation in 2021.

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

When it came to the Senate, voting rights legislation has always run counter to the filibuster. The filibuster rules require 60 votes to start and end debate on most laws before moving on to the final vote. With Democrats controlling just 50 votes and Republicans almost universally opposed to voting rights legislation, the only way to get a pass was to change the filibuster rules.

Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said “everything is on the table” in a bid to pass voting rights legislation. Schumer announced plans to use the so-called nuclear Senate rule change option in the middle of a Senate simple majority meeting to change the filibuster sufficiently to allow the right to vote. This is what both the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did in 2013 and 2017 respectively to eliminate filibusters in judicial and executive nominations.

Schumer’s proposed change to the filibuster rule would require the filibuster minority to actually speak in order to block the bill, keeping at least 41 senators in the floor at any given time. When they broke off negotiations or could not keep 41 senators in the chamber, a simple majority could vote to pass the bill in question. This change will only apply to that one vote.

“Isn’t the protection of voting rights and the prevention of their diminution more important than a rule in the Senate?” Schumer asked Wednesday in a speech against Manchin and Sinema, as nearly every Democrat sat at his desk in a rare scene on the Senate floor.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), one of the few Republicans in the House at the time, warned that the partisan filibuster’s rule change would “break the Senate,” dismissing Democrats’ calls to protect voting rights as “phony hysteria.” ”

The proposed rule change was the Democrats’ closest to Manchin’s perceived interest in restoring the “talking filibuster” while providing a path for the bill to pass. However, Manchin hammered the final nail into the coffin of the idea on Wednesday after several hours of lengthy speeches on the Senate floor, with many of his colleagues speaking passionately on behalf of voting rights action.

“The easy way out would be to eliminate the filibusters,” Manchin said, suggesting that lawmakers focus on possible areas of agreement, such as electoral vote count reforms. “I cannot support such a dangerous course. … It’s time to put in the hard work to find hard compromises that will stand the test of time.”

Hand on heart, Manchin then turned to his fellow Democrats and asked them to respect his opinion against pushing for rule changes on a partisan basis.

Throughout 2021, Manchin and Sinema have stated their opposition to the elimination or weakening of pirates. In June, Manchin even announced his opposition to the “For the People” voting rights bill passed by the House of Representatives.

But Democrats remained hopeful after Manchin agreed to negotiate a compromise voting rights bill with seven other senators he said could win Republican support.

After co-writing the bill, Manchin tried unsuccessfully to introduce it to the Republicans. He also tried to persuade Republicans to support the House of Representatives’ John R. Lewis Extended Voting Rights Act, which would restore the Voting Rights Act, but won only one GOP co-sponsor, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.

Senators joe manchin (dw. Va. ) and kyrsten sinema (d-ariz. ) are aligned with all 50 republicans voting against changing the senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill they allegedly support.
Senators Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are aligned with all 50 Republicans voting against changing the Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill they allegedly support.

Kent Nishimura via Getty Images

Manchin’s active involvement in drafting and selling voting rights bills has led Democrats to believe that he will be open to potential filibuster changes when the time comes. He even engaged in lengthy discussions with Senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Angus King (D-Maine), and John Tester (D-Montana) about possible reform options.

But, in the end, Manchin remained opposed to changing the rules of the Senate without the support of the Republicans. Sinema also redoubled its efforts, announcing its opposition to the filibuster reform in a speech on the Senate floor just minutes before Biden arrived to discuss it with the Democratic caucus.

This has doomed the push for voting rights legislation and is forcing voters in GOP-controlled states that have passed restrictive voting laws to overcome additional hurdles to register to vote and cast their ballots.

After Wednesday night, Democrats will be hopelessly praying that the Supreme Court, filled with Trump-appointed conservatives who just months ago struck down the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for the second time in 10 years, will strike down those restrictive state election laws. . Otherwise, Democrats will have to “re-engineer” these laws in 2022, 2024, and beyond.


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