Schumer vows to bring up voting rights legislation, Senate rules changes
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats will take up voting rights legislation once they return in January, warning that they will also bring up changes to the Senate’s rules if Republicans block the bill, as they have done previously.
“The Senate will consider voting rights legislation, as early as the first week back,” Schumer wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues Monday.
“If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation,” he added.
Schumer’s announcement comes after Senate Democrats left for the year without taking up voting rights legislation, despite pressure from within the caucus to quickly figure out a path forward.
Voting rights legislation and potential changes to the Senate rules are tied together. Republicans have used the 60-vote legislative filibuster to block voting and election reform legislation, arguing that they would federalize elections.
That’s sparked growing support within the Democratic caucus to change the filibuster. Democrats haven’t settled on a specific plan but are discussing a range of options including a talking filibuster, creating a carve-out for voting rights or changing the votes needed to break a filibuster from 60 “yes” votes to 41 “no” votes.
But to pass changes to the Senate rules, Schumer would need total unity within his caucus — something he doesn’t currently have.
Schumer’s decision to force a debate on changing the rules could put him at odds with moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), both of whom have said they support the 60-vote threshold currently required for most legislation to pass the Senate.
Manchin has been talking with both Republicans and a group of Democrats leading the caucus rules change discussions, but hasn’t publicly backed a potential overhaul of the legislative filibuster.
In a hurdle for Democrats, he has said that rules changes should be bipartisan and has previously opposed using the “nuclear option” that would allow Democrats to change the rules on their own.
Sinema, meanwhile, signaled recently that while she supports voting rights legislation, she remains supportive of the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
“Sinema … continues to support the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, to protect the country from repeated radical reversals in federal policy which would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions, and further erode Americans’ confidence in our government,” said John LaBombard, a Sinema spokesperson.
“Senator Sinema has asked those who want to weaken or eliminate the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation which she supports if it would be good for our country to do so, only to see that legislation rescinded in a few years and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law, nationwide restrictions on vote-by-mail, or other voting restrictions currently passing in some states extended nationwide,” he added.
But Schumer indicated that he is willing to force a vote anyway, arguing that senators should go on the record about where they stand on potential changes to the Senate rules.
“I believe our constituents deserve to know which Senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which Senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders’ intentions,” he said in Monday’s letter.
“Members will be given the chance to debate on the Senate floor and cast a vote so that their choice on this matter is clear and available for everyone to see,” he added.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.