Citing January 6, Dems turn to the fight for voting legislation
Trump’s false claims about a stolen election not only incited the mob that stormed the Capitol, Democrats say. His relentless disinformation campaign also sparked efforts by the GOP to pass new state laws that made voting difficult, while in some cases made the administration of elections more vulnerable to political interference.
Many Democrats say the time has come to take decisive action on what they see as the civil rights struggle of the time. The Senate rule change in early 2022 may offer the last best chance to counter the State-level push by Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, when the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the slim stake in the 50-50 Senate could be wiped out.
“If Republicans continue to hijack the Chamber’s rules to prevent us from protecting our democracy, the Senate will discuss and consider changing the rules,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Friday .
What action they will take, however, remains highly uncertain, depending on the often elusive support of Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. Key Democrats have been meeting with Manchin for weeks to ponder options while enlisting external allies to campaign for his support.
Manchin has made no firm commitments. He has repeatedly said that he will not support lowering the filibuster’s 60-vote hurdle to pass most laws, an attitude shared by fellow centrist Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. Until the threshold is lowered, passing electoral laws could prove difficult, if not impossible.
But Democrats say they are focused on what is achievable now amid escalating pressure from Allies to take action. Even modest changes to the Senate rules are a significant step forward.
Biden leans in to the fight and will deliver a speech on voting rights in Atlanta on Tuesday. And Schumer has expanded civil rights symbolism by setting the January 17th holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. as the deadline for passing the electoral law or revising the rules. The Senate is likely to hold a series of test votes this week to underscore the Republican opposition.
“I’m not going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because I don’t know which voices will come up,” Manchin said last week, noting that he has supported some changes to Senate rules in the past. One proposal the Democrats are discussing is to eliminate the filibuster via what is known as the “motion for progress,” which is required before a bill can be debated in the Senate.
Republicans say it is insulting to invoke the January 6 uprising. Most of the electoral laws were drafted prior to the attack and include a liberal wish-list of priorities that will do little to address weaknesses in the law exposed by Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.
“It is more than distasteful for some of our colleagues to shamelessly invoke January 6th to accomplish these goals,” said Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, the Senate minority leader Democrats want to break the Senate. “
The renewed focus on voting rights comes from the fact that much of Biden’s agenda in Congress has stalled. Before Christmas, Manchin single-handedly stopped working on Biden’s $ 2 trillion package of social and environmental initiatives and delayed the bill indefinitely.
Civil rights activists are deeply frustrated with the turn of events and say valuable months have been wasted. They view the GOP-sponsored changes to electoral law as a more subtle form of electoral restrictions such as literacy tests and election taxes that were once used to deprive black voters, a key democratic electorate.
“Unfortunately, many policymakers have not really realized the gravity of our current position in this nation,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in an interview, highlighting both Biden’s White House and Senate Democrats. “African Americans have seen this before. We have already seen that. We need to get beyond procedural talks and get to the core of protecting this fragile thing called democracy. “
If the Democratic bill were signed, it would usher in the largest election overhaul in a generation, lowering the barriers to elections in the name of electoral security, reducing the influence of big money in politics, and the influence of parties on the drawing of congressional districts. The package would create national electoral standards that would trump GOP laws at the state level. It would also restore the Justice Department‘s ability to oversee electoral laws in states with a history of discrimination.
McConnell has ridiculed the effort as one inspired by “creepy stories that liberal activists repeat over and over again about how democracy is near death.” He recently envisaged the possibility of closer bipartisan action to support a complicated 19th-century law called the Electoral Count Act, which regulates the certification of presidential elections – a law Trump tried to exploit to drive his 2020 defeat overthrow Manchin, who said that all electoral laws should be passed bipartisan.
Last week, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine had bipartisan talks with Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mitt Romney of Utah, as well as Manchin and Democrats Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. An update to the Electoral Count Act was part of the discussion, according to a Collins spokeswoman.
The Democrats have blown the GOP’s overture to the electoral counting law as a “cynical” political maneuver aimed at doing what is necessary at the federal level while keeping the laws in place in GOP-controlled swing states like Georgia.
“What use is it to certify the election if I can’t even cast my vote?” Said Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, the first African American to represent Georgia in the Senate. This year he is standing for re-election.
Republicans warn that the Democrats will regret any change in filibuster designed to encourage compromise by deliberately making laws difficult.
“They barely have a majority now,” said South Dakota Senator John Thune, the Chamber’s No. 2 Republican. “Even the strongest majorities end up in the minority again at some point.”