Schumer, McConnell clash over filibuster amid voting rights push

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are trading shots as Democrats prepare to force a debate over voting rights legislation and changing the legislative filibuster to pass election-related bills without Republican support.

Schumer and McConnell, opening the Senate for the week, gave back-to-back speeches on Monday grilling each other and previewing their arguments that are likely to dominate the upcoming week.

The Democratic leader accused Republicans of supporting the “big lie,” a reference to former President Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was “stolen,” by using the 60-vote legislative filibuster to block voting and election legislation.

“Our Republican colleagues have gone to great lengths recently to distract from the dangers of Donald Trump’s big lie. … By blocking these chambers from taking any action, Senate Republicans are implicitly offering their own endorsement of the big lie,” Schumer said.

Democrats are expected to force a vote this week on election-related legislation, viewing it as a top priority as GOP-led states have enacted new voting rules in the wake of the 2020 election.

Republicans have previously used the 60-vote legislative filibuster to block the bills, arguing that they amount to a federal overreach.

If Republicans block the voting legislation, Schumer is then expected to force a debate over changing the legislative filibuster. But so far, Democrats don’t have the ability to change the rules on their own. They would need total unity from all 50 of their members, but Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have reiterated recently that they remain supportive of a super-majority threshold for legislation.

“If Republicans refuse to join us in a bipartisan spirit, if they continue to hijack the rules of the Senate to turn this chamber into a deep freezer, we’re going to consider the appropriate steps necessary to restore the Senate so we can pass these proposals and send them to the president’s desk,” Schumer said.

No Republican is expected to support changes to the legislative filibuster. Republicans have also opposed two bills that would overhaul federal elections, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) was the only GOP senator to support starting debate on legislation, named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), that would expand the Voting Rights Act.

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor after Schumer, accused Democrats of using “entirely fake” reasons for floating changes to the legislative filibuster.

“If Senate Democratic leaders are trying to use the big lie to bully and berate their own members into breaking the Senate, we’re going to spend all week sounding the alarm on the radical takeover that some Democrats want to pull off,” McConnell said.

McConnell reiterated on Monday that he previously rejected calls from then-President Trump to nuke the filibuster and argued on Monday that doing so would “cause a massive political power outage for many millions of American citizens.”

Critics of the filibuster note that it effectively lets a minority block a majority, since it requires 60 votes to break a filibuster.

“If this unique feature of the Senate is blown up, millions and millions of Americans’ voices will cease to be heard in this chamber. … What the Democratic leader wants to do would not protect our democracy or our system of government. It would destroy a key feature,” McConnell said.

Tags Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Filibuster Joe Manchin John Lewis Kyrsten Sinema Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Senate filibuster voting rights legislation

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