Sinema refuses to change the idler and deals with Biden in a setback

WASHINGTON – President Biden’s campaign to push new protections for voting rights through Congress looked almost dead Thursday, after it became clear he had failed to unite his party behind his push to reform Senate rules to enact legislation on Republican opposition.

In an embarrassing setback for Biden, Senator Kirsten Senema, D-Arizona, stunned her colleagues just hours before the president decided his case for them in person at the Capitol by taking the Senate floor to announce she would not support them. Undermining procrastination to pass legislation under any circumstances.

The announcement by Ms. Senema, who has long opposed changing Senate rules, left Biden and Democrats with no way to win the enactment of voting rights measures, which they have described as vital to preserving democracy in a Republican-led standoff. Driving in states across the country to limit access to the ballot box.

It came two days after the president put his reputation on the line to raise the issue of enacting the legislation by any means necessary — including repealing the famous blockage — with a major speech in Atlanta that compared opponents of voting rights measures to racist figures. The Civil War era and the racism that frustrated civil rights initiatives in the 1960s.

She raised the question of what Mr. Biden would do next, given that Republicans are all but certain they will use stalling a fifth time to block voting rights proceedings, and Democrats lack the unanimous support needed in their party to change the rules. To enable them to move the bills through themselves.

“Like every other major civil rights bill, if we miss the first time, we’ll come back and try it again,” Biden said after walking away empty-handed from his session with Senate Democrats. “We missed this time.”

But his visit to the Capitol is reminiscent of his experience last fall, when he twice made a trip to Pennsylvania Avenue to plead with House Democrats to quickly unite behind the two main elements of his domestic agenda — a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and nearly $2 trillion From the Social Safety Net and Climate Package – only to be rejected both times. He eventually won approval for the public works bill, but the other measure remains in limbo due to objections from Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who, like Ms. Senema, reiterated his opposition Thursday to eliminating the blockage moving forward. Voting Rights Act.

It was a disappointing turnaround for a president who emphasized his long experience as a senator and his knowledge of how to get things done on Capitol Hill.

In a last-ditch effort to get the two on board, Mr. Biden met Ms. Senema and Mr. Manchin at the White House Thursday night to discuss voting rights measures, although neither of them left room in their rooms. Statements to waive Senate rules.

Late Thursday night, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, announced that due to health and weather threats, the Senate would postpone consideration of the voting bill until at least Tuesday.

His announcement means the Senate will not drop its deadline to represent Martin Luther King on Monday. But he said he intends to move forward despite the setbacks.

“Members of this room have been elected to debate and vote, particularly on an issue so vital to the beating heart of our democracy like this one,” said Mr. Schumer. “We will go ahead.”

It’s always been an uphill fight, because Ms. Senema and Mr. Manchin have repeatedly emphasized that they will not use the bare 50-vote Democratic majority to weaken obstruction, the procedural weapon that effectively requires 60 votes to advance key legislation, which they argue is fundamental to the nature of the Senate.

But supporters of the voting rights bills had hoped that the newfound fervor of Mr. Biden, a longtime protector of Senate tradition, to change the stalling – combined with a lobbying campaign by other Democrats – would help change their minds.

In her remarks, Ms. Senema said that while she supported the voting rights bill pushed by her party and is concerned about voting restrictions imposed by Republicans in some states, she believes that the partisan change in the disruption will only inflame the already rampant political division. .

“These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not completely treat the disease itself,” Ms Senema said. “And as I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate measures that exacerbate the underlying disease of division that afflicts our country.”

Her work left many of her fellow Democrats particularly angry, with some saying it was a dagger delivered to the president in a way that would draw attention to Ms. Senema. Some said her arguments were weak, particularly her insistence that Democrats should have done more to lure Republicans into the House, when they tried but failed to do so for months. Others complained that Ms. Senema appeared glued to her phone for most of the meeting with the president.

But her speech was welcomed by Republicans, who credited her with nothing less than the protection of the Senate.

“It was very important,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican and minority leader from Kentucky who was on the ground during Ms. Cinema’s address, told reporters. He called it an “obvious act of political courage” that “saved the Senate as an institution.”

Later, the mood was sombre at the meeting as Biden addressed Democrats, that lawmakers were firm on the issue of voting rights but succumbed to the limitations set by Ms. Senema’s position, according to several people who attended and spoke about it. Condition of anonymity.

Biden was nostalgic for his days in the Senate, reflecting on his strong ties with Republicans and lamenting the demise of partisanship but saying little about the problem at hand — his party’s refusal to stand behind his strategy.

He noted that Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, once a segregationist presidential candidate, was more willing to support voting rights than current Republican senators, according to One People. He dismissed a question about whether Republicans would put forward conservative proposals if the stall was weakened by saying the party was too divided to do so.

Mr. Manchin, who often cites Senator Robert C. Baird of West Virginia as his inspiration, acknowledged that Mr. Byrd was willing to support changes to Senate rules, but he did so in a unanimous fashion.

Ms. Senema’s speech was a devastating development for Democrats, who just hours before Thursday began a complex process of speeding up a standoff over voting rights.

It began with the House passing Thursday morning a pair of repackaged voting rights bills, which passed from 220 to 203, on a partisan voting line with opposition Republicans.

The new legislation brought together two separate bills that the House of Representatives had already passed — the Voting Freedom Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Development Act — and joined them in what was an unrelated measure covering NASA. The move would allow the Senate to bring the bill directly to the floor, avoiding initial delays, although Republicans could still block it from a final vote.

Democrats said the legislation is urgently needed to offset efforts taking hold in Republican-led states to make voting more difficult after Democratic gains in the 2020 election and former President Donald J. Trump’s false claim that the vote was stolen. They argued that the wave of new state laws was clearly intended to reduce voting in minority communities, which amounts to a contemporary version of the kinds of restrictions that prevailed before prominent civil rights laws were enacted in the 1960s.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said, referring to the enactment of new voting restrictions over the past year in Republican-led states. “Voter suppression has not been handed over to the history books. It is here today, now.”

Republicans criticized the legislation, calling it federal interference in state voting processes aimed at giving an unfair advantage to Democratic candidates.

“This is a giant leap backwards for the integrity of the US election,” said Representative Tom Tiffany, Republican of Wisconsin.

The Freedom of Voting Act contains a set of proposals to set national standards for access to ballot papers, with the goal of eliminating a wave of new restrictions in states. may require at least 15 consecutive days of early voting and that all voters be able to request a vote by mail; It will also establish new automated voter registration programs and make Election Day a national holiday. It is a narrower version of legislation introduced by Democrats early last year but has been modified to fit Mr. Manchin, who said the original bill was too broad and insisted on including a provision requiring voters to provide some form of identification.

The second measure, named for Representative John Lewis, a civil rights icon and former congressman who died in 2020, would restore parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act weakened by Supreme Court rulings. Among the rulings was one that states that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination obtain prior approval – or “prior authorization” – from the Department of Justice or federal courts in Washington before changing their voting rules.

Zulan Kanu Youngs And Katie Edmondson Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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Andrew Naughtie

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