Republicans continue to stymie Democrats on voting rights. Will anything change?

  • Republicans filibuster Democratic efforts to pass bill
  • Move escalates pressure on Senator Joe Manchin

Hello, and happy Thursday,

No, it’s not deja vu: Senate Republicans once again used the filibuster on Wednesday to stymie Democratic efforts to pass a significant voting rights bill. It’s the fourth time it’s happened this year, the most recent coming just two weeks ago.

But Democrats and other voting rights advocates hope that this time is different.

They never really expected 10 Republicans to sign on to the bill and advance it. Instead, they hoped to use the vote as a final chance to show the West Virginia senator Joe Manchin and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, two of the staunchest filibuster defenders, that there is no hope of passing a voting rights bill while the filibuster remains in place.

It’s a development that significantly escalates pressure on Manchin specifically. The voting rights bill that Republicans blocked in late October was one he personally helped write and sought GOP input on. The measure Republicans blocked on Wednesday, which would have restored a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act, is one he supports. Manchin has said that “inaction is not an option” on voting rights. But now Republicans have made it clear that while the filibuster remains in place, inaction is the only option.

Sign up for the Guardian’s Fight to Vote newsletter

So where do things go from here? To start, I think we’ll begin to see a lot more explicit language from Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, about changing the rules of the filibuster. While Schumer has repeatedly said “all options are on the table” when it comes to voting rights, he’s stopped short of outlining specific changes he’d like to see or calling out Manchin and Sinema specifically. It’s only recently that Schumer has begun to talk about the need “to restore the Senate as the world’s greatest deliberative body”. I expect we’ll also see some increased pressure from the White House.

Schumer continued that rhetoric on Wednesday after the filibuster. He described it as a “low, low point” in the history of the Senate, and questioned whether some of Congress’s greatest legislative accomplishments would have been able to overcome the filibuster if they had been proposed in today’s Senate.

Per a senior Dem aide, Schumer met with King, Kaine and Tester earlier today to talk about next steps on voting rights and to have "family discussions" with their colleagues about how to "restore the Senate" and find a pathway forward on the legislation.

— Marianne LeVine (@marianne_levine) November 3, 2021

But will this be enough to sway Manchin and Sinema? I’ve written before about why I’m cautiously optimistic they will come around on voting rights. Manchin didn’t seem to be budging after Wednesday’s vote.

“We’ve got Lisa Murkowski, we just need nine more,” Manchin said, according to Politico. “We need other people to be talking to each other and find a pathway forward. It can’t just be one or two people talking to both sides.”

But as Democrats get mired in negotiations over the infrastructure bill, it may be harder to pressure their two holdouts. Biden said during a town hall in late October that it would be hard to deal with the filibuster while infrastructure negotiations were ongoing.

In any case, the next few weeks will be critical in determining whether Democrats can actually protect access to the ballot box.

Readers’ questions

Please continue to write to me each week with your questions about elections and voting at or DM me on twitter at @srl and I’ll try to answer as many as I can.

Also worth watching …

  • I spoke with election officials across the country about the wave of threats and harassment they’ve seen over the last year

  • Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio are pushing maps that would give them an extreme partisan advantage for the next decade.


Sam Levine in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Republicans blocked a voting rights bill again – are Democrats out of options? | The fight to vote
No one is surprised by the Republican effort to block the measure – but the higher-stakes fight is what Democrats do next with the filibuster

Sam Levine in New York

21, Oct, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
How Democrats could actually pass their new voting rights bill | The fight to vote
Despite the huge obstacle that the filibuster poses, this new bill is significant – Democrats aren’t willing to let voting reform go

Sam Levine

16, Sep, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Democrats fail to advance voting rights law as Senate holdouts defend filibuster
Sweeping protections for voters, already passed by House and backed by Biden, fail to clear 60-vote procedural hurdle

Sam Levine

20, Jan, 2022 @1:27 PM

Article image
Senate Republicans again block sweeping voting rights bill
Party-line vote will significantly increase pressure on Democrats to do away with the filibuster

Sam Levine in New York

20, Oct, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Democrats seek way forward after voting rights bill hits Senate roadblock
The White House warned democracy was ‘in peril’ but while key Democrats stay committed to the filibuster, progress looks difficult

Sam Levine

23, Jun, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
‘A ticking timebomb’: Democrats’ push for voting rights law faces tortuous path
Democrats have yet to convince their entire Senate caucus to back the House-passed For the People Act – let alone beat the filibuster

Sam Levine in New York and Daniel Strauss in Washington

27, May, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Why a filibuster showdown in the US Senate is unavoidable
Even though Democrats control both chambers of Congress, they can’t pass a voting rights bill because they don’t have enough votes to get rid of the filibuster

Sam Levine in New York

29, Apr, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Republicans woo Joe Manchin as senator clashes with Democrats
Centrist senator has rejected the idea of joining GOP but has indicated openness to being an independent

Joan E Greve in Washington DC

22, Dec, 2021 @9:57 PM

Article image
‘Democracy will be in shambles’: Democrats in last-ditch effort to protect voting rights
Party members say their control of both the House and Senate is at risk if they do not pass new legislation to protect elections

Sam Levine in New York and Ankita Rao in Washington

31, Aug, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Democrats bid to change Senate rules if Republicans thwart voting rights reform
Voting rights reforms have repeatedly stalled in 50-50 Senate, as Schumer says: ‘We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us’

David Smith Washington bureau chief

03, Jan, 2022 @6:30 PM