Senate

Schumer proposing talking filibuster amid voting rights standoff 

Senate Democrats will force a vote this week to try to change the rules and enact a talking filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Tuesday that Democrats will force a rules change vote once Republicans block a voting rights bill as soon as Wednesday. 

“If the Senate cannot protect the right to vote which is the cornerstone of our democracy, then the rules must be reformed. …If the Republicans block cloture on the legislation before us, I will put forward a proposal to change the rules to allow for a talking filibuster on this legislation,” Schumer said. 

Schumer said that proposal was in line with recommendations from a group of senators, many of whom flanked him during Tuesday night’s announcement, that have led the voting rules and filibuster discussion. 

The announcement comes after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Schumer’s No. 2, tipped his hand earlier Tuesday about what Democrats were eyeing. Democrats then huddled behind closed doors on Tuesday evening to solidify their decision. 

Currently, most legislation faces a 60-vote hurdle before it can advance to a final vote. But under the rules change that Democrats will force a vote on, opponents will be able to delay a voting rights bill by speaking on the Senate floor, but after that a bill will be able to pass by a simple majority. Schumer and Democratic senators stressed that the talking filibuster would only apply to voting legislation, leaving the 60-vote hurdle in place for other issues.

“Once members of the minority party have exhausted all of their speaking rights and defended their position on the Senate floor, the debate will have run its course and the Senate will move to vote on final passage at a majority threshold,” Schumer said, describing the impact of the potential rules change.

“I hope every senator will embrace this practical reform,” Schumer said. 

Schumer didn’t specify what day this week that rules change vote would happen, but Democratic senators say that it is likely to happen on Wednesday but could slip until Thursday, when the Senate is already expected to be in town to confirm a judicial nominee. 

The push to change the filibuster for voting rights comes as Republicans have used the 60-vote hurdle to block two sweeping election bills and separate voting legislation. 

Democrats are expected to force a vote on a fourth bill, which combines the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, as soon as Wednesday, where they are expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to move it forward.

Once that happens, Schumer is vowing to move forward with trying to change the rules.

Schumer didn’t specify what day this week that rules change vote would happen, but Democratic senators say that it is likely to happen on Wednesday but could slip until Thursday, when the Senate is already expected to be in town to confirm a judicial nominee.

But that effort will fail. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have both said they support the 60-vote hurdle.

Manchin reiterated shortly before the meeting that while he supports the idea of a talking filibuster, he doesn’t back getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle.

Manchin attended Tuesday night’s meeting in person, while Democratic senators said that Sinema called into the meeting. 

“I just don’t know how you break a rule to make a rule … The majority of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, they’ve changed, they’ve changed their mind,” Manchin said shortly before the meeting.

“I’ve never changed my mind on the filibuster,” he added. 

Schumer dismissed a question about if he would support primary challenges to Sinema and Manchin, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opened the door to earlier.

“I’m not getting into the politics. This is a substantive serious issue,” Schumer said in response to the question. 

But he reiterated that most Democrats are on a different page than the two moderate-minded lawmakers.

“The vast majority of our caucus strongly disagree with Sens. Manchin and Sinema on rules change,” he said.

This story was updated at 7:10 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Dick Durbin Filibuster Joe Manchin John Lewis Kyrsten Sinema voting rights

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.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video