Schumer vows to push forward with filibuster change: ‘The fight is not over’

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday vowed to move forward with a likely doomed effort to change Senate filibuster rules as part of an effort to pass voting rights legislation.

Schumer — speaking at a National Action Network event with Al Sharpton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and others — acknowledged that the bid to change the legislative filibuster is a “tough fight” but said he and other Democrats would push ahead.

The Democratic leader’s remarks come after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) reiterated last week that they don’t support changing the Senate rule, which requires 60 votes for most bills to advance.

“I’m going to down to Washington, and we are going to debate voting rights. We are going to debate it, and, in the Senate, you know we need 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster … but since we only have 50 Democrats in our razor-thin majority, the only path forward on this important issue is to change the rules to bypass the filibuster,” Schumer said.

He added, in reference to Sinema and Manchin, that “there are two Democrats who don’t want to make that happen. But the fight is not over, far from it.”

Schumer’s comments come as the Senate is expected to formally start debate on Tuesday on the voting rights legislation. The bill combines the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls federal elections and campaign finance laws, with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which expands and strengthens the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Democrats are using a procedural loophole to start debate on the bill without needing to overcome the 60-vote threshold.

Instead of trying to formally end debate, which would require Democrats to win over 10 GOP senators to clear the 60-vote hurdle, some Democrats are publicly floating the idea of trying to make Republicans mount a talking filibuster, where they would need to hold the floor to prevent the voting bill from passing with a simple majority.

“There’s other paths that we could take where we just — the 60-vote threshold is only if you want to limit debate. We could do longer debate … and have a simple majority,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who made a similar pitch to a small group of reporters late last week, told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

But Schumer is indicating that he intends to follow through on his pledge to force a vote on changing the filibuster on the Senate floor. Democrats expect that the voting rights bill will face a 60-vote hurdle on Wednesday, when Republicans will use the filibuster to keep it from moving forward.

Once that happens, Schumer says he will bring up a rules change on the Senate floor.

“If the Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote, as we expect them to, the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules,” he said during a Senate floor speech late last week.

Democrats haven’t yet outlined what their rules change proposal will look like.

They have floated implementing a talking filibuster that would allow opponents to delay a bill for as long as they can hold the floor, but after that, it would be able to pass by a simple majority. They are also discussing creating a carveout that would exempt voting rights legislation from the 60-vote hurdle but leave it in place for other issues.

But none of those rules can be enacted unless Schumer has total unity from his 50-member caucus. He doesn’t, but Democrats are facing intense pressure from their base to hold a vote anyway to force Republicans — and their own holdouts — to go on the record with their opposition to changing the rules in order to advance the voting rights bill.

Both Manchin and Sinema reiterated last week that they support the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

Manchin said in a statement that he would “not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” Sinema, in a floor speech, reiterated that while she supports the voting rights bills, she also has “long-standing support” for the legislative filibuster.

“It is the view I continue to hold. It is the belief I have shared many times in public settings and in private settings,” Sinema said.

Tags Charles Schumer Joe Manchin John Lewis Kirsten Gillibrand Kyrsten Sinema legislative filibuster MLK Day Senate filibuster Tim Kaine voting rights legislation

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