Schumer begins debate on passing legislation, says ‘eyes of nation’ are on Senate

Democrats are advancing on one of the party’s signature issues despite lacking the votes to pass the legislation in Congress and face an uphill battle.

“Senate Democrats are under no illusions that we face challenges, especially when virtually all Senate Republicans are adamantly opposed to legislation protecting the franchise,” Schumer said. “But I want to be clear: when this chamber is faced with such an important issue, so vital to our country, so vital to our ideals, so vital to the future of our democracy, you don’t drag it off the table and Say, it doesn’t matter.”

The New York Democrat on Tuesday offered to force a vote to break a filibuster on election legislation, which could happen as early as Wednesday if there is a deal. If there is no agreement, the vote will take place on Thursday.

“Just days before what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93rd birthday, the Senate began debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act for the first time in this Congress. “Schumer said.

The Senate Majority Leader repeated his threat that if Senate Republicans prevent the election bill from moving forward, Democrats will try to tweak Senate rule changes to pass the legislation, an effort that also appears doomed to fail.

“We need to consider and vote on rule changes that are appropriate and necessary to restore the Senate and make it possible for legislation to pass,” Schumer said.

The problem for Democrats is that they don’t have the votes to get rid of the filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold for most laws to pass, due to opposition from influential Democrat moderates. . Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Democrats interested in ‘filibuster’

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin gave the first indication of the rule change Democrats are seeking to try to make in order to pass voting legislation: forcing senators to speak up and mount a filibuster speaking if they want to block the legislation. And once they stop talking, the Senate can move the bill forward with just 51 votes.

“He’s more of a talking filibuster,” the Illinois Democrat told CNN when asked about the proposed rule change. Under current rules, senators can simply threaten a filibuster, prompting a 60-vote threshold to advance a bill.

Durbin warned it was not the final decision and would be “solidified” at a caucus meeting on Tuesday night. “It’s not the last word,” he said.

Even though Democrats are exploring this idea, they still don’t have the support to make it happen.

Changing the rules along party lines would require the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus. But Sinema and Manchin remain adamantly opposed to invoking the so-called “nuclear option” to clear the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.

Democrats take the right to vote

President Joe Biden has been emphasizing the right to vote in recent days, despite the challenge facing his party and at a time when other key parts of his national agenda have stalled.

Last week, Biden vowed to keep fighting during a visit to Capitol Hill, but admitted he was unsure if Democrats would be able to pass the legislation they were calling for.

“Hopefully we can do it. The honest answer to God is I don’t know if we can do it,” Biden said. “I hope we can get there, but I’m not sure. But one thing is certain, as with all other major civil rights bills, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try a second time.”

Defenders and activists call for action

Ahead of the expected Senate vote on election legislation, advocates and activists are pleading their case and appealing directly to lawmakers.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson sent a letter to senators on Tuesday imploring them to “preserve democracy.”

“Last year, state lawmakers introduced 440 voter suppression bills across the country, and many have been successfully etched into law. Efforts to suppress voters only intensified in this New Year,” Johnson wrote.

Separately, five well-known sports personalities, including famed basketball player Jerry West, wrote a letter to Manchin asking him to help pass suffrage legislation.

They said the bill is “urgently needed legislation that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of the results of all federal elections.”

About 30 suffrage protesters were arrested by Capitol police on Tuesday after breaking through the perimeter of the plaza and singing protest songs on the steps of the Senate.

They were there to ask the Senate to vote on the combined this week this week. Protesters adapted traditional songs to include the names of Manchin, Sinema and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, chanting “go tell Sinema we won’t be moved”, “go tell Manchin” and “don’t won’t let McConnell turn me over.” They also chanted that “the filibuster must go”.

Some of those arrested are on a hunger strike and carried a sign saying they are on day 13.

Capitol police gave them their first warning about 10 minutes after they sat down and began arresting them after their third warning. Protesters were tied up and loaded into USCP-marked vans to be taken offsite for processing.

This story was updated with additional developments on Tuesday.

CNN’s Manu Raju, Eva McKend, Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

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