WASHINGTON (AP) – Days before the anniversary of the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the Senate would soon vote on relaxing the filibuster rules with the goal to advance blocked vote legislation that Democrats believe is necessary to protect American democracy.
In a letter to colleagues on Monday, Schumer, DN.Y., said the Senate “must evolve” and “will debate and consider” rule changes by Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, then as Democrats seek to defeat Republicans. opposition to their package of electoral laws.
“Be clear: January 6 was a symptom of a larger disease – an effort to delegitimize our electoral process,” Schumer wrote, “and the Senate must push forward systemic democratic reforms to mend our republic, if not the events of that day will not happen. be an aberration – they will be the new normal.
The election and voting rights package was blocked in the 50-50, evenly divided Senate, blocked by a Republican-led filibuster with Democrats unable to muster the 60 votes needed to move it forward to the passage.
So far, Democrats have failed to come to an agreement among themselves on potential changes to Senate rules to lower the 60-vote barrier, despite months of private negotiations.
Two recalcitrant Democrats, the senses Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, tried to warn their party against changes to Senate rules, arguing that if and when Republicans would take majority control of the chamber, they could then use the lower voting threshold. push forward bills that Democrats strongly oppose.
President Joe Biden has only waded cautiously through the debate – a longtime former senator who largely sticks to existing rules but also comes under enormous political pressure to break the deadlock on election law.
Voting rights advocates are warning Republican-led states are passing restrictive legislation and attempting to install election officials loyal to former president Donald Trump in a way that could overturn future elections.
Trump urged his supporters on Jan.6 to “fight like hell” for his presidency, and a mob stormed Capitol Hill trying to prevent Congress from certifying the state election tally for Biden. It was the worst national attack on a seat of government in US history.
How the Senate filibuster rules would be changed remains under discussion.
It seems certain that a large-scale end to filibustering is beyond the reach of Democrats. Changing the rules would require all 50 votes, and Manchin and Sinema have made it clear they don’t want to go that far.
Senators are wary of a major overhaul after seeing the Democrats’ fallout end the filibustering of some judicial and executive candidates. Once the Republicans took power, Senator Mitch McConnell, the leader of the GOP, removed the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments – introducing three conservative judges chosen by Trump to the High Court.
But despite their reluctance to make major changes to the filibuster, Manchin and Sinema both support electoral legislation. In fact, Manchin helped craft the latest package in an unsuccessful effort to win the support of Republicans. Now colleagues from both Democrats are working on ways to change the filibuster so that at least this legislation can pass.
Private talks with senators have been going on for weeks and continued through the recess.
Ideas include forcing senators to keep their voice, the old-fashioned way, rather than simply raising their objections to filibuster – a scene reportedly echoed in the 1950s and 1960s when southern segregationists obstructed. to civil rights legislation.
Other ideas are also being considered, and some Democrats noted that Sinema had indicated she was willing to hear the arguments in a full debate.
Republicans are so worried that Democrats are ending the filibuster that McConnell has taken other steps to try and keep Manchin and Sinema close so they don’t join the rest of their party in making drastic changes.
A Republican, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, argued Monday that ending the filibuster would turn the Senate into a majority-ruled “Lord of the Flies” style institution.
“It is absurd and dangerous for the institution itself,” Lee said in a statement. He said Schumer and his “disastrous plan” had to be stopped.
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