Senate

Schumer to tee up John Lewis voting rights bill for Wednesday

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, October 26, 2021.
Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Monday that he will force a vote this week on a voting rights bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

Schumer will force a vote on Wednesday on whether to debate the bill. It is expected to fail to get the 60 votes needed to advance.

“I will file cloture on the motion to proceed to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, setting up a vote to take place on Wednesday,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.  

“If there’s anything that merits debate here in the Senate, it’s protecting the precious right of Americans to participate in our elections,” Schumer added.

All Democrats, except Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), introduced a revised version of the bill last month. Manchin, asked why he wasn’t signed on as a co-sponsor, previously told The Hill that he had to consult with staff because changes had been made from a previous version that had buy-in from Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The voting rights bill named after Lewis would update the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to strengthen sections of the 1965 law that were gutted by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which focused on Section 5 of the VRA that required Justice Department preclearance before some states could change voting laws, and the 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision, which advocates believe weakened Section 2 of the 1965 law focused on racially targeted voting policies.

Schumer pledged that if Republicans help start debate on the bill, which is unlikely, that they would have a chance to offer amendments. Even if Republicans allowed a debate on the bill, they could still block it from passing because it will need to overcome a second 60-vote hurdle. 
 
“I am prepared to offer a full-fledged debate befitting this great chamber. Republicans will be given the chance to raise their objections, to offer amendments and make changes to the bill,” Schumer said. 
 
“I know that both parties have serious disagreements on this important issue, so we want to hear from the other side what they propose. But for that to happen, we need to start debate first. We need to vote to allow the Senate to work through its process,” Schumer added. 
 
Democrats view voting rights as a top priority but they’ve been unable to get a bill through the Senate because of the legislative filibuster. 
 
President Biden injected new momentum into a debate within the caucus on reforming the legislative filibuster when he said during a CNN town hall late last month that he would support “fundamentally” changing the Senate rule for voting rights.

But Democrats don’t currently have the votes within the caucus to either get rid of or change the filibuster. Doing either would require total unity from all 50 members of the caucus and Vice President Harris to break a tie. 

Tags Charles Schumer Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis John Lewis Voting Rights Act Lisa Murkowski voting rights Voting Rights Act

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