Senate Democrats fail to advance voting rights legislation and changes to filibuster
Republicans oppose the voting rights law, a Biden priority. In an evenly split, 50-50 Senate, Democrats don't have the votes to overcome a filibuster.The vote Wednesday night to end debate on the bill was shot down, 51-49, with every Republican voting against moving the bill to the Senate floor for a final vote. Democrats needed 60 votes to overcome a legislative procedure known as the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., changed his vote to "nay" at the end in a procedural move that would allow him to bring the legislation to the floor again at a later date.
Civil rights groups skewered Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for opposing changing the Senate filibuster rules.
"History will remember Senator Sinema unkindly," said Martin Luther King III.
A Georgia-based group said Sinema "cried crocodile tears" while Americans were losing their rights.
Civil rights leaders and voting rights groups lit into Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for her decision to reject President Biden's push to weaken the Senate's filibuster in order to pass the party's major voting rights package.
Chuck Schumer WILL put forward a 'talking filibuster' proposal
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday night he would put forward a 'talking filibuster' proposal after an expected vote on a voting rights bill fails Wednesday. At an evening press conference, surrounded by his Democratic colleagues, Schumer explained that if Republicans block the voting bill from proceeding - which they will, using the current filibuster rules where 60 votes are needed for cloture - he will have senators vote to change the rules for just the voting bill.
"History will remember Senator Sinema unkindly. While Sen. Sinema remains stubborn in her 'optimism,' Black and Brown Americans are losing their right to vote," Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., said in a statement. "She's siding with the legacy of Bull Connor and George Wallace instead of the legacy of my father and all those who fought to make real our democracy."
Sinema said on the Senate floor that changing the 60-vote threshold for most legislation would "worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country." The Arizona Democrat reiterated her support for her party's two biggest voting rights bills, but her opposition to changing the filibuster almost certainly guarantees that both pieces of legislation will fail.
Democrats put renewed focus on voting rights: What happened in 2021, and where do reforms stand now?
President Joe Biden and Democrats have turned their attention to voting rights as other parts of their agenda have stalled and ahead of the midterms.This week, they are using Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the jumping off point to take one of their most aggressive approaches yet: If they don't pass legislation to strengthen voting protections, they'll look at changing the Senate rules regarding the filibuster to get the job done.
Voto Latino, a nonprofit focused on encouraging young Hispanic voters, said that Sinema was "incredibly naive" to think that there would be bipartisan support for federal voting rights legislation. Just one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supports legislation named after the late Congressman John Lewis that would restore parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Andrea Waters King, another of Martin Luther King Jr.'s children and the president of the Drum Major Institute, said: "We'll be in Phoenix this weekend to remind Senator Sinema what Dr. King once said: 'The time is always right to do what is right.'"
Video: Sen. Schumer on Manchin, Sinema: We've got to keep pressing them on voting rights action (MSNBC)
One of the Georgia-based voting groups that boycotted Biden's Tuesday voting rights speech in Atlanta also came out swinging over Sinema's comments.
Why celebration of MLK Day without legislation defangs the civil rights leader's legacy
More than six decades ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about the fundamental importance of voting rights. His family continues that fight today.A version of this story appeared in CNN's Race Deconstructed newsletter. To get it in your inbox every week, sign up for free here.
"While Senator Sinema cries crocodile tears on the Senate floor, the rights of Americans are being actively attacked," Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, said in a statement. "Her plea for bipartisanship might have more credibility if a single Republican had stepped forward to defend democracy. There already is a 'sustained, robust effort' to defend American democracy. It's the one that put Senators Warnock and Ossoff into office and created the political space that she so cynically exploits."
President Joe Biden attended Senate Democrats' caucus meeting on Thursday afternoon as the party tries to find a way forward to pass voting rights legislation before its self-imposed deadline of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.
"I hope we can get this done. But the honest to God answer is I don't know whether we can get this done," Biden told reporters after the meeting.
During the meeting, another member of the Arizona delegation, Rep. Ruben Gallego, took to the House floor to rebut Sinema's remarks.
"Today the House showed where it stands. We won't shrink from protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans. It's past time for the U.S. Senate and Senator Sinema to do the same," he said.
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Opinion: The White moderates MLK warned us about .
In an open letter, initially scrawled in the margins of a newspaper, Dr. King addressed a group of fellow clergymen who claimed to support the Black freedom movement but criticized nonviolent civil disobedience as a tactic, writes Victor Ray."I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the White moderate who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice.