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Schumer delays votes on Senate voting rights as fight against obstruction looms

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Schumer delays votes on Senate voting rights as fight against obstruction looms

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Democratic supporters of US President Joe Biden hold signs all together reading “Senate, act now” during a candlelight vigil on the National Mall on the first anniversary of the Jan.6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delayed votes on a pair of voting rights bills Thursday night, pushing back a debate on the House rules that will decide the fate of electoral reforms the party is considering as vital to protecting American democracy.

The New York Democrat said the chamber will not pass the legislation until Tuesday, citing “the circumstances surrounding Covid and another potentially dangerous winter storm” approaching Washington, DC Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, announced a positive Covid-19 test on Thursday. Democrats won’t have a simple majority until he can return to the equally divided Senate.

“Make no mistake, the US Senate will debate – for the first time this Congress – voting rights legislation starting Tuesday,” Schumer said Thursday evening. “Members of this chamber were elected to debate and vote, especially on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as this one. And we will proceed.

Republicans plan to block two proposals, known as the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Once the bills fail, Democrats plan to consider ways to bypass the filibuster and pass the proposals by simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, DN.Y., Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Left, and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Hold a press conference after a Senate Democrats luncheon at the United States Capitol on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.

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The strategy seems doomed to failure. While all Senate Democrats have signed the election legislation, at least two – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – have said they will not support the obstruction changes needed to pass it. Under current rules, Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to pass most laws.

“Eliminating the 60-vote threshold on a party line with the thinnest possible majority to pass these bills that I support will not guarantee that we will prevent demagogues from winning the post,” Sinema said on Thursday, reiterating his position.

While the two centrist senators hold firm to the rule changes, it seems nearly impossible for Democrats to pass a series of reforms they see as essential to protect access to the ballots. The provisions of the bills would expand advance and postal voting, make automatic voter registration the national norm, establish election day as a national holiday, and restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ousted. by the Supreme Court.

It is now unclear how the Democrats will proceed if they fail to remove the filibuster. Some Republicans appeared open to reforming the 1887 electoral tally law to make it more difficult for local officials to corrupt election results.

The possibility arose last year as some GOP officials defended pressure from former President Donald Trump to overturn the swing-state presidential election results on the basis of false conspiracy theories that widespread fraud caused his downfall to President Joe Biden.

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Many Democrats have called the vote count reforms inadequate without changes to allow more people access to the ballot in the first place. But making it harder to override the results may become one of the only options left if their favorite bills fail.

Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to pass election bills several times over the past year, as Trump’s election lies spurred the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill and contributed to the restrictive election laws passed in states like Texas and Georgia. A year after a pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol as Congress counted Biden’s victory, the president in two speeches this month described a threatened democracy and pressured the Senate to change its rules to protect elections.

Biden met Manchin and Sinema for over an hour on Thursday evening. They had “a frank and respectful exchange of views on voting rights,” said a White House official.

The president met with Senate Democrats earlier today and appeared pessimistic about his party’s chances of passing voting rights bills.

“I hope we can get there,” Biden said. “The honest answer to God is, I don’t know if we can do this.”

The realities of the Senate indicated that the bills would fail. But Democrats wanted to show their constituents an effort to pass reforms after Trump tried to overturn the election and state legislatures passed laws that could disproportionately harm voters of color.

Republicans have argued the Democratic bills will go too far. They said the plans would give the federal government too much control over state elections.

Congress has passed legislation to protect voting rights in the past, including the Voting Rights Act that Democrats aim to restore.

The GOP also made exceptions to filibuster as a fundamental change to the function of the Senate that would make lawmakers less likely to find consensus.

“There is a way forward for my fellow Democrats to respond to the country they have so gravely disappointed,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. “It’s not about trying to break the Senate and rewrite election laws. It’s about starting to tackle the issues that American families need to grapple with.”

As he watched the likely failure of voting rights legislation, Biden vowed to continue trying to protect access to the ballots.

“Like all the other big civil rights bills that have come forward, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try it a second time,” he said. “We missed this time.”

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Schumer delays votes on Senate voting rights as fight against obstruction looms

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