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Politics: ​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration

Biden to amp up the pressure on the Senate to change filibuster rules for voting rights during Atlanta speech

  Biden to amp up the pressure on the Senate to change filibuster rules for voting rights during Atlanta speech President Joe Biden is traveling to Atlanta on Tuesday to deliver a major speech on voting rights, looking to turn up the heat on reluctant senators as Democrats face pressure to pass two pieces of pending legislation opposed by nearly all Republicans on Capitol Hill. © DREW ANGERER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images US President Joe Biden speaks at the US Capitol on January 6, 2022, to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC. - Thousands of supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in a bid to prevent the certification of Biden's election victory.

Democrats made a full-throated push for voting rights legislation on Sunday as the Senate prepares to take up election reform this week, setting the scene for a high stakes battle after two centrist Democrats announced last week that they will not support a rules change to approve voting rights reform amid GOP opposition.

Jim Clyburn wearing a suit and tie: Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C,) © Greg Nash Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C,)

The Senate is slated to begin consideration of a House-passed voting rights bill on Tuesday. Republicans are expected to block the bill itself, leading Democrats into uncharted territory where they will be forced to face intra-party differences regarding the legislative filibuster.

Chuck Schumer Plans to Show Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema Why to Change Filibuster Rules

  Chuck Schumer Plans to Show Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema Why to Change Filibuster Rules The Senate's top Democrat has laid out his plan to bring voting rights legislation to the Senate floor, which could set up a vote on changing the filibuster.A memo sent by Schumer to Senate Democrats Wednesday lays out how he plans to sidestep procedures that have been used by Republicans to block consideration of voting rights legislation. The Senate requires 60 votes to initiate debate on most bills, which has been a stumbling block for Democrats as they've sought to advance voting rights legislation in the evenly divided chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to hold a vote on changing the rules to the 60-vote legislative filibuster if Republicans again oppose voting rights reform, but that threat was muddied last week after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said they support the legislative hurdle and will not move to change it for election reform. All 50 Democratic senators are needed to alter chamber rules.

The likely chain of events will leave Democratic leadership grappling with how to move forward on one of its marquee issues ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, in which Republicans appear poised to take control of both chambers of a closely split Congress.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that while election reform bills "may be on life support," they are not yet dead. He said the party is "not giving up" in its fight for election reform, which has gone on for months without bearing any victories.

Biden's speech didn't cover emerging critical threats to US elections

  Biden's speech didn't cover emerging critical threats to US elections The speech, while focused on voting rights, obscured the more significant threat to the country’s election integrity for the midterms and the 2024 presidential election: the idea that a future election loser could subvert the country’s electoral machinery to take power. Trump's crusade to overturn the 2020 election failed, but not wholly, for across the country, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7, 2021, at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting voting access. More than 440 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in Republican-led 2021 legislative sessions.

Clyburn told Greta Van Susteren in an interview that aired Sunday that he is worried about losing the House in November which is why he is "fighting as hard as I can for this voting rights bill." He said the U.S. is "teetering on the edge of losing this democracy."

During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" the majority whip encouraged that votes be held in the Senate on the legislation itself and on changing Senate rules, despite the reality that both referendums will likely fail because of Republicans, Manchin and Sinema.

Asked during the interview if holding a vote on changing the filibuster will shine a light on Democratic disunity, Clyburn said that reality is always a threat before emphasizing the significance of getting members on the record.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sounded a similar note on Sunday, telling CBS's "Face the Nation" that senators "have to be recorded at this moment in time about where are we in protecting the right to vote."

Kyrsten Sinema’s opposition to filibuster reform rests on a myth

  Kyrsten Sinema’s opposition to filibuster reform rests on a myth Senate rules are fostering obstruction — not bipartisanship.As Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, has emphasized, however, the belief that the filibuster fuels bipartisanship is one of many myths about the rule. The filibuster requires most bills to get 60 votes in order to proceed in the Senate, but it’s often used as a tool to obstruct legislation, not foster it.

He called voting rights "an existential issue."

President Biden struck a comparable tone during a voting rights speech in Georgia last week when he called for changing the legislative filibuster to pass voting rights. He has since faced criticism among Republicans and even some Democrats for what they said went too far when likening the current voting rights battle to a moment of historical significance, asking if elected officials wanted to be on the side of civil rights icons or segregationist figures.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) knocked Biden on Sunday for that rhetoric in Georgia, claiming that the president made untrue statements and questioning how such comments will help unite the country.

Clyburn, however, said he "wholeheartedly" supports the president's speech.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also knocked the administration on Sunday, telling NBC's "Meet the Press" that the White House never reached out to him regarding voting rights negotiations. He said he would be willing to work with the White House on such an initiative.

Kaine, however, had a different recollection, telling "Face the Nation" that he has found "zero support" for voting rights in the Republican Party other than Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) who was a co-sponsor on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

As voting rights push fizzles, Biden's failure to unite his own party looms again

  As voting rights push fizzles, Biden's failure to unite his own party looms again Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, both Democrats, said Thursday they were against filibuster changes, spoiling Biden's efforts to pass voting rights.On Thursday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, dealt a potentially fatal blow to Biden’s renewed push for federal voting rights legislation. In a surprise speech on the Senate floor, she flatly rejected Biden’s plea – issued less than 48 hours earlier – to change the filibuster rules so Democrats could muscle through the voting rights bill without any Republican votes.

Despite the internal battles, however, Schumer said last week the Senate would take up voting rights bill on Tuesday with hopes that more nudging and negotiating can help send legislation on Biden's desk.

Kaine on Sunday said Democrats still have "a couple of different paths" they can pursue if Republicans, Manchin and Sinema derail their plans, including a carve out to the filibuster or changes to debate rules.

One area of compromise could come in form of changes to the Electoral Count Act, an 1887 statute that outlines how Congress tallies the Electoral College vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) previously said the topic is "worth discussing," and Clyburn on Sunday said the effort is "absolutely" worth pursuing.

Regardless of the way forward, Democrats are poised to face their election reform stalemate head-on during a symbolic week as Americans on Monday recognize Martin Luther King Day, celebrating a man who lost his life more than 50 years ago fighting for voting rights for African Americans.

Voting rights fight shifts back to statehouses as Senate Democrats fail to advance national protections .
Just weeks from the first primaries of the 2022 midterm elections, the fight over voting rights is unfolding again at the state level -- with Republicans in several swing states proposing new measures that would make it harder to vote. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images A view of voting booths at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office on October 13, 2020 in San Jose, California.

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