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At stake is not only the party’s promise on a key issue, but also potentially the future Democratic majorities. Many party members privately fear that frontline Democrats like Warnock or House Democrats vulnerable to redistribution could lose their seats if Congress does not send in a federal elections and ethics bill to President Joe Biden’s office by this summer.

The problem took a long time Democrats’ last in-person lunch before the break, several senators said. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Urged those in his caucus who want changes to submit their revisions to the President of the Rules of the Senate, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and to the Chief Sponsor, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as soon as possible.

“’If you have any concerns about this bill, take it to Merkley and take it to Amy before the markup,” Kaine recalls telling his party. “You want to have a bill that completely unites the Dems. This means no sandbags, no objections or concerns later. “

Although the bill has 49 co-sponsors, a Democratic source said a handful of Democrats still had reservations. Failure to sign, however, would risk a public backlash from the left. And Manchin, the most reluctant Democrat, wants to rethink the direction of the bill.

He said “there are a lot of good things” in the larger bill, but said the party should focus on the stand-alone voting rights bill, named after the late Representative John Lewis. (D-Ga.).

The Congressional Black Caucus is considering such a strategy and Manchin advised Democrats to come up with “legislation that actually contains accessibility, security and fairness.” And I think we can. Warnock pleads with Manchin of his own and says his colleague knows “how urgent it is.”

Democratic leaders have continued to draw attention to the broader voting rights bill even as its prospects darken. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has repeatedly stated that “failure is not an option” on the package and wants to put the bill on the ground by August to give states the time to implement it.

Schumer told Ezra Klein that if Republicans don’t work with Democrats, “the choice is more difficult and we have to see how it evolves.” But he added that “in the past when this happened we stuck together and produced a good result.”

At this point, progressives will not accept defeat no matter how many billions of dollars the Democratic Party with its meager majorities in the Senate and House is spending.

“No success at reconciliation will excuse the Democrats’ failure on this front and they will go down in history as the appeasement party of ‘peace in our time’ at a time of rising racist fascism,” Ezra said. Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, a progressive group.

But without abolishing the 60-vote threshold, the “For the People Act” is going nowhere. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) Vocally oppose gutting filibuster; a number of other Democrats are skeptical. Optimists believe the bill could be the catalyst for Senate rule revisions.

The “Law for the People” would create federally enforced voting rules and would require unapologetic postal voting and advance voting in person. It also sets up a public financing system. The more focused John Lewis bill would reinstate the requirement that certain jurisdictions receive approval from the Department of Justice or DC District Court before making changes to voting laws.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was the only Senate Republican to co-sponsor Lewis’ Voting Bill last year. Otherwise, Republicans have shown little interest.

With these math problems and internal divisions in mind, some Democrats have questioned the party’s strategy. A Democratic senator, who requested anonymity, feared the party could be seen as bluffing if it could not follow through. This senator said that “the aim of the authors is to have it promulgated. I don’t see a path.

“I never understood it. Task one, go see if you can get out and get 50 votes. Task two, get out there and see if there is a way to end the filibuster on this. And I don’t see it, ”the senator said. “The country would be better off if we could get it all through. My concerns are above all: what can we do to get past this place? “

Other Democrats admitted they didn’t know what the big plan was. Is it to use voting rights as a pivot point to change filibuster, an already difficult battle? Or is it a vote meant to unite the party and embarrass Republicans when they block it?

“We need to change the filibuster” to move forward, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“I’ve had conversations with Schumer about this. I don’t know exactly how this is going to end. There is an urgency for this, ”said Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.).

Republicans will argue in the committee’s vote that voter identification rules are popular and state-funded elections are not. Rules commission ranking member Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) Said his party was preparing votes on as many as 100 amendments and would make the process “painful” for Democrats.

“It’s hard to believe they really expect this to pass,” said Blunt, a former Missouri secretary of state.

Some election experts have questioned how realistic it would be to implement such sweeping changes before mid-term. Democrats are working with this in mind.

“We have solicited contributions from Secretaries of State… there are a lot of things we want to make sure they can be deployed effectively by the time of next year’s primaries. So we’re going to get into a number of those things, ”Merkley said.

But less than a total of 180 Republicans, they would end up preventing the bill from being debated. Some see this vote as a fuse for the filibuster struggle that weighs on the party’s control over Washington. But that would require buy-in from every Democratic senator and massive overthrow of Sinema and Manchin.

And while Democrats have widely condemned the multitude of election bills introduced by GOP state legislatures following former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of widespread electoral fraud, some say it is too early. to find out whether these laws will actually pose an existential threat to Democrats. political fortunes.

As a second Democratic senator put it: “I’m not sure it’s true that everything is doomed if we don’t pass S1.”

Zach Montellaro contributed to this report.

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