Schumer, McConnell spar as GOP prepares to block voting bill

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) sparred Tuesday on the upper chamber's floor ahead of a vote on a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections.

The back-to-back floor speeches come as Republicans are poised to block the For the People Act, a top Democratic priority. Democrats are waiting to see if Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.) will give them a symbolic victory and vote with them to try to advance the bill.

Schumer characterized the vote as a referendum on democracy as Democrats raise red flags over new legislation proposed, and in some cases enacted, in GOP-controlled states.

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“Do my Republican colleagues believe that voting rights ... is that worthy of debate? Of course it is,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

“Will our colleagues stand up for what generations of Americans have fought for, marched for and died for, or will they just slink away and say we’re not going to even debate this?” he added.

But the ultimate outcome of Tuesday’s vote was never in doubt amid entrenched Republican opposition to the For the People Act and a slimmed-down list put out by Manchin as a potential compromise.

Democrats would need the support of 10 GOP senators to advance the election bill over an initial procedural hurdle on Tuesday. Every Republican is expected to vote against it.

“The Senate is only an obstacle when the policy is flawed and the process is rotten. And that’s exactly why this body exists. Today the Senate’s going to fulfill our founding purpose, stop the partisan power grab and reject S. 1,” McConnell said.

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Democrats view voting rights as a too-big-to-fail priority after former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE falsely claimed for months that the 2020 election was "rigged" due to widespread voter fraud. A number of Republicans have echoed the same claims, even after several legal challenges to the 2020 election results in different states. 

Schumer linked the Senate's debate to the former president, arguing that there was a "rot" within the Republican Party.

"Donald Trump’s big lie has spread like a cancer and threatens to envelop one of America’s major political parties," Schumer said.

"It became the match that lit a wildfire of Republican voter suppression laws sweeping across the country. ... We all know what these laws are about. I dare say my Republican colleagues know. They’re not stupid," Schumer added.

The For the People Act is a sweeping bill that, in addition to setting national voting standards, would change the composition of the Federal Election Commission, add new restrictions on congressional redistricting, overhaul campaign finance, and include new ethics rules for the president and vice president.

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Republicans have dismissed it as a federal takeover of elections, and Manchin has said he can't support the initial version because it is too broad and doesn't include GOP support.

Instead, he has opened the door to supporting a slimmed-down list but stressed he's not willing to change the 60-vote legislative filibuster in order to get it passed.

Democrats have been working behind the scenes to try to get Manchin to vote to advance the For the People Act. Even though Manchin's support will not change the ultimate outcome, it would at least allow Democrats to tout unity during Tuesday's closely watched vote.

Manchin and Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined 6M by EU regulators Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (D-Minn.) said early Tuesday afternoon that they are still negotiating.

"We're in a good place because Sen. Manchin has been negotiating with us in good faith," Klobuchar said while declining to predict how Manchin would vote. "[But] this has not been agreed to yet."