Schumer targets filibuster reform to pass voting rights legislation

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., kicked off the new year with another effort to blow up the Senate filibuster to pass federal voting reform legislation. 

Schumer said Monday the Senate will “debate or consider changes to Senate rules on or before” the Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. The announcement, made in a letter to his colleagues, puts pressure on holdout Democrats to carve out exceptions to the 60-vote requirement to pass most legislation. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have repeatedly said they will not vote to get rid of the filibuster in an effort to maintain bipartisanship in the Senate. Schumer would need the support of all 50 senators who caucus with Democrats to carve out a filibuster exception for voting rights legislation. 

Schumer, who did not back changes to the filibuster in 2017 when Republicans were in charge of the Senate, said now is the time for the Senate to “adapt” and “evolve” because democracy is under threat with state-level changes to voting access.

“We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?” Schumer said in the letter to colleagues.

Both Manchin and Sinema support the Freedom to Vote Act, which establishes national standards on voter access, redistricting and campaign finance. Simena also co-sponsored the original John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and Manchin in November signed on to a bipartisan compromise version of the legislation named for the late Georgia congressman. 

Schumer said he continues to talk to Manchin and Sinema about pushing them to change the filibuster to pass the voting rights legislation they support. 

“We are having active discussions with them, several a day,” Schumer told MSNBC’s “The Reid Out” Monday. 

Schumer gave no indication that Manchin and Sinema have caved on their stance. 

“Well, we’ve got to keep pressing them and pressing them and pressing them until they do,” Schumer said. “There is too much at risk here. If obviously they were saying yes to us, we wouldn’t have to worry about this.”

Republicans have blasted Schumer’s attempt to further erode the filibuster, which was most recently amended by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to confirm former President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority vote. 

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called Schumer’s latest Senate gambit “absurd and dangerous to the institution itself.”

“Senator Schumer’s rash, partisan power grab should be seen for what it is—desperation and a failure to do what Joe Biden and Democrats ran on: unify,” Lee said in a statement. 

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