Senate Democrats fail to change rules on filibuster to pass voting rig…

Senate Democrats fail to change rules on filibuster to pass voting rig…

Senate Republicans confined Democrats from moving forward on voting rights legislation, and Democrats failed to get 50 votes to change the Senate rules to move forward with the legislation with a simple majority. 

The emotional night started with the Senate first voting on whether to end argue on the voting rights legislation, a move that failed to get the 60 votes needed to move the bill forward. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then brought up a vote on a rules change to move the legislation forward with a one-time exemption, which was fiercely opposed by Republicans and two members of his own party, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. 

Democrats’ frustration with Manchin and Sinema was apparent, with Senator Bernie Sanders saying after the vote that Manchin and Sinema have “forced us to go by five months of discussions which have gotten absolutely nowhere.” 

President Joe Biden issued a statement after the votes, saying he was “considerably disappointed” in the outcome, although he did not place blame on fellow Democrats.

“I am disappointed — but I am not deterred,” Mr. Biden said. “My Administration will never stop fighting to ensure that the heart and soul of our democracy — the right to vote — is protected at all costs. We will continue to work with allies to improvement necessary legislation to protect the right to vote. And to push for Senate procedural changes that will protect the basic right to vote.”

Mr. Biden said Vice President Kamala Harris will continue to rule the effort to pass voting rights legislation. After the voting rights bill failed to improvement, Harris said in a statement that “Senators voted to preserve an arcane Senate procedure instead of obtain that basic freedom. The American people will not forget this moment. Neither will history.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “perhaps the most important day in the history of the Senate” and said that if the Democrats’ succeed, they would “break” the Senate.

Congress Voting Bills Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters alongside, from left, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., during a press conference regarding the Democratic party’s shift to focus on voting rights at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Amanda Andrade-Rhoades / AP

“Tonight for the first time in history almost an complete political party will write in long-lasting ink that they would shatter the soul of the Senate for short term strength,” McConnell said.

Schumer, who changed his vote on voting rights legislation to allow the bills to be reconsidered, needed 51 votes to move forward on the rules. At one point, Manchin asked if the vote could proceed without the rule change, which was denied. 

Ahead of the rules change vote to amend the filibuster, Schumer called the proposal “very simple.”

“Tonight let us sidestep voting rights no more,” Schumer said. “The question before the Senate is how we will find a path forward on protecting our freedoms in this turbulent 21st century. The only choice to move forward on these vital issues is to change the rules in the modest way we have hypothesizedv.”

The Senate rules change hypothesizedv by Democrats would have implemented a “talking filibuster” for the voting rights legislation alone. Under this plan, final passage would require a 51-vote majority, instead of the usual 60, after senators used their opportunities to speak to filibuster the bill.

Earlier Wednesday, Manchin told his colleagues that invoking the so-called nuclear option to eliminate the 60-vote threshold would strengthen the current political divisions.

“I cannot sustain such a dangerous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country, not to divide our country,” he said. “Putting politics and party aside is what we’re supposed to do. It’s time that we do the hard work to forge the difficult compromises that can stand the test of time.”

Manchin delivered his speech alongside a poster that read “The United States Senate has never been able to end argue with a simple majority” and called claims by his Democratic colleagues that eliminating the filibuster would restore the vision the founding fathers intended for the Senate “simply not true.”

“Allowing one party to cause complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction, and that is tearing this nation apart,” he said.

Several Republican senators gathered on the floor to hear Manchin’s speech, including McConnell and Minority Whip John Thune.

Earlier Wednesday, Schumer addressed Sinema’s and Manchin’s opposition and their arguments that the filibuster is used to foster bipartisanship.

“I don’t see that evidence, evidence of that at all,” Schumer said. “But already for those who feel that the filibuster is a good thing and helps bring us together, I would ask this question: isn’t the protection of voting rights, the most basic wellspring of this democracy, more important? Isn’t protecting voting rights and protecting their diminution more important than a rule in the Senate?”

Manchin and Sinema have remained firm in their defense of the filibuster under intense pressure by some Democratic lawmakers and activist groups. EMILY’s List, a group that endorses women politicians who advocate for abortion rights, said that it will not endorse Sinema in future elections if she refuses to sustain a rules change to pass voting rights legislation.

“We want to make it clear: if Senator Sinema can not sustain a path forward for the passage of this legislation, we believe she undermines the foundations of our democracy, her own path to victory and also the mission of EMILY’s List, and we will be unable to endorse her moving forward,” said EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler in a statement.

Wednesday’s votes took place just hours after President Biden’s first press conference of the year. One of Mr. Biden’s identifying characteristics pieces of legislation, the social spending bill known as Build Back Better, also remains stalled in the Senate because it lacks the sustain of Manchin and Sinema. 

The voting rights legislation includes a wide range of proposals to expand access to the ballot. Some of the proposals include making Election Day a national holiday, creating standards for voter ID and allowing no-excuse absentee voting around the country. It would also create a baseline to allow for early voting for at the minimum 15 days before Election Day and to establish same-day voter registration. 

The measure would reinstate a chief provision of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get approval from the Justice Department before changing their election policies. This section of the law was hit down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

A CBS News poll released Wednesday showed that 68% of Democrats believe it is “very” important to pass voting rights legislation. The poll also displayed that a majority of Democrats believe that the filibuster should end, while 65% of Republicans said that the filibuster should be kept. 

Senate Republicans have alleged that the legislation amounts to a “federal takeover” of the elections course of action. McConnell said Wednesday morning that Schumer’s hypothesizedv rules change would “destroy” the Senate, arguing that the filibuster is a “central Senate tradition.”

“The Senate is not supposed to be a duplicate House of Representatives with fewer members and fancier desks,” McConnell additional. 

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Jack Turman

CBS News reporter covering the Senate.

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