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Democrats came up short on MLK day promise. What’s next for the push for a voting rights bill?

  • January 17, 2022

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin defend filibuster, likely crushing Biden’s hopes of passing voting rights bill

The upcoming vote comes after President Joe Biden’s unsuccessful effort on Capitol Hill to persuade Senate Democrats to pass a voting rights bill –  and a week in which he traveled to Atlanta and gave a speech pushing lawmakers to lift the legislative hurdle that has allowed Republicans to stall much of his agenda: the filibuster. 

On Thursday the president suggested he could come up empty-handed.

“I hope we can get this done. The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” Biden said after his meeting on Capitol Hill. 

Meanwhile, House Democrats say they won’t give up on passing a federal voting rights bill, which Democrats see as necessary to counteract election laws in GOP-led states that they say are restrictive. They have continued to press their Senate counterparts to pass voting legislation, despite the uphill climb it faces. 

In a letter to colleagues Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote, “We cannot and we will not rest until this legislation is enacted into law.”

“The Senate must do its part to advance this legislation. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake,” Pelosi said.  

The House passed a bill Thursday morning that combined two pieces of voting rights legislation, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, and has now been sent to the Senate. 

The Freedom to Vote Act sets minimum federal requirements for early voting and mail-in voting, while the John Lewis Voting Rights Act restores the Justice Department’s oversight of election law changes in states that have a history of discrimination. 

Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to pass a federal election bill that benefits them. 

“It isn’t about ‘voting rights,’” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in December, “it’s a naked power grab.”

At the heart of the voting rights talks is the filibuster, a 60-vote threshold needed to bring bills up for debate. Biden and most Democrats want to make an exception to the filibuster to allow a voting rights bill to pass with a majority vote, but without Manchin and Sinema, they don’t have the support to change the rules. 

Biden on the filibuster:‘Let the majority prevail’: Biden backs filibuster change to pass voting rights in Atlanta speech

Congressional Black Caucus members publicly called on the Senate to alter the filibuster during a press conference Wednesday. 

“We are calling on the Senate to vote. We’re calling on the Senate to have that debate because we want to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We want to pass the Freedom to Vote Act,” said CBC chair Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio. 

“It makes me emotional, when I think of as a Black woman I must stand here today before you asking us to do something that the past five presidents have done, and four white Republican presidents, reauthorize the Voting Rights Act,” Beatty added. 

Biden’s approval rating drops to new low of 33% on concerns about his handling of COVID, economy: pollAs voting rights push fizzles, Biden’s failure to unite his own party looms again

Contributing: Deborah Berry 

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