Schumer vows next steps after ‘awful’ GOP election bill filibuster
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and top Democrats are eyeing next steps on voting rights legislation after a GOP filibuster of a sweeping election bill sparked widespread fury.
Republicans blocked the For the People Act, a top Democratic priority, from coming up for debate Tuesday, marking the third successful filibuster of the Biden era.
But Democrats are vowing to push forward, arguing that after the 2020 election, which former President Trump falsely characterizes as “stolen” despite losing dozens of election challenges, not addressing voting rights would threaten the very core of American democracy.
“Once again Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression to their enduring disgrace. … But I want to be very clear about one thing: The fight to protect voting rights is not over, by no means,” Schumer said after the vote, calling the GOP filibuster “ridiculous and awful.”
“Make no mistake about it, it will not be the last time voting rights comes up for a debate in the Senate. … We have several serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression. We are going to explore every last one of our options,” Schumer added.
Democrats didn’t immediately detail how they would try to revive voting rights legislation and they face a big lift to get anything through the Senate given that the legislative filibuster requires 60 votes, meaning at least the support of 10 GOP senators, in order to advance and ultimately pass most legislation.
Republicans rejected not only the original version of the sweeping 800-page bill but also a slimmed-down version circulated as a framework by centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who spearheaded the For the People Act, predicted that Democrats would keep negotiating.
“The next step is continuing to work the dialogue between the 50 senators … and evaluate the next approach,” Merkley said.
And Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the Rules Committee chairwoman, announced that the Rules Committee will hold hearings.
“This fight has just begun — that’s why, as Chairwoman of the Rules Committee, I am announcing a series of hearings on the urgent need to pass critical voting, campaign finance, and ethics reforms, including a field hearing in Georgia to hear testimony on the recently enacted legislation to restrict voting in the state,” Klobuchar said.
But it’s unclear how Democrats get voting rights legislation across the finish line.
The GOP blockade on the voting rights legislation poured fuel on calls from progressives and a growing number of senators to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
“If we are serious about calling ourselves a democracy we must make it easier for people to participate, not harder. Now is the time for majority rule in the Senate. We must end the filibuster, pass sweeping voting rights legislation, and protect our democracy,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement.
Ellen Sciales, the communications director for Sunrise Movement, called the For the People Act a “corpse in Schumer’s legislative graveyard.”
“But that doesn’t have to be Schumer’s legacy. Democrats must abolish the filibuster and pass democracy reform immediately,” she said.
But to get rid of the filibuster Democrats need all 50 members of their caucus to support changing the rules, something they don’t have.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reiterated this week that they don’t support nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster. Opposition from either of them is enough to deprive Democrats of the support they need to change the rules.
And beyond Manchin and Sinema, several other Democrats are viewed as wary of changing the rules, giving reform advocates a broader group they need to shore up.
Manchin circulated his own compromise proposal to his colleagues earlier this month and said that he had also spoken with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on voting rights. Murkowski voted against the For the People Act but supports legislation to beef up the Voting Rights Act named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).
“Her and I have talked and we’re talking more and more,” Manchin said about Murkowski. “[But] I can’t figure out now why people want to make it difficult, or regress, and we’ve always basically encouraged people to vote.”
Amid the unclear path forward, progressive groups have become increasingly frustrated with Biden, urging him to lean in more forcefully on voting rights and the filibuster.
“Biden and Harris must use their bully pulpit in full force. They must realize that voter suppression is just as existential a threat as climate change, because tackling one is inextricable with the other,” Sciales said.
Harris, in a rare move, presided over the Senate’s hours-long voting rights debate and the failed vote. Biden also indicated after the Senate vote that he would have more to say publicly next week.
“I’ll have more to say on this next week. But let me be clear. This fight is far from over—far from over,” Biden said.
Harris spoke with Schumer over the weekend on voting legislation and Schumer noted that he spoke with Biden earlier Tuesday.
“I spoke with President Biden earlier this afternoon as well,” Schumer said. “He has been unshakable in his support of S. 1.”