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.

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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 sam.levine@theguardian.com 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.

Contributor

Sam Levine in New York

The GuardianTramp

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