Senate Democrats are gearing up again to push for a change in the upper chamber’s filibuster rules as part of their plan to pass sweeping election reform legislation. They plan to use this week’s anniversary of the January 6 Capitol building riot to pressure their two notable holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Reports indicate that Democrats have hope that they will be able to sway Manchin and Sinema by using public and private arguments that the events of January 6 sparked an ongoing effort by Republicans to block voting rights bills in state legislatures around the nation.
Democrats have proposed various changes to Senate rules to attack the filibuster. One proposal would eliminate the 60 vote requirement for opening debate on the Senate floor but not for closing debate. Another change would specify time limits on Senate debate and votes on amendments. A separate change that has been floated would require a minimum of 41 senators to appear in person to block a vote instead of the current 60 vote minimum to proceed to a final vote.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told reporters that he believes more detail will be added to proposed changes this week now that the outlines have been laid out.
Senate Republicans have been unified in opposing federal election legislation as proposed by Democrats. No Republicans appear to support the Freedom to Vote Act, which would federalize voter ID requirements by loosening documentation requirements nationwide and would require at least 15 days of early voting everywhere. Another Democrat proposal would revise and expand the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Since last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had said that the Senate would take up the voting and elections bills when this week’s legislative session opened. However, it remains uncertain whether Manchin and Sinema are on board with any proposed filibuster changes.
Manchin remained steadfast as recently as last month in saying that he would not support any changes to the filibuster rules without at least some support from Republicans. He said that because each party will be in the majority and the minority from time to time, changes should be made with input from both sides.
Sinema has said that she will continue to support the 60 vote requirement to end the filibuster on ordinary legislation to protect the nation from radical and sudden changes in federal law when narrow party balances shift from one election to the next. Last month, her spokesman John LaBombard stated that eliminating the filibuster would create uncertainty and deepen party divisions while further damaging Americans’ confidence in the federal government.