Washington (AFP) – Senate Democrats are trying to force a public confrontation over their sweeping election legislation, aiming to launch a debate over the party’s key priority even though there is no guarantee the bill will be voted on.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined the plan in a memo obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, on the eve of President Joe Biden’s visit to meet privately with Democratic senators about the path forward. It still leaves Democrats in need of a way to force a vote on the legislation, which has now been blocked by stalling Republicans.
Schumer wrote in the memo to fellow Democrats, which described an alternative solution to avoid the Republican disruption that impeded the official debate on the legislation in the Senate. “Senators can finally make clear to the American people their position on protecting our democracy and upholding the right of every eligible American to vote.”
The strategy does little to solve the central problem Democrats face — they lack Republican support to pass a bipartisan election law, but they also don’t receive support from all 50 Democrats for changing Senate rules to allow passage themselves. But the latter tactic could create a way out of their initial approach, which was to hold a vote by Monday on pending changes in the Senate as a way to pressure Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona to move forward.
By setting up a debate, Schumer will achieve the Democrats’ goal of highlighting senators to have their say. Debate on the ground can stretch for days and echo the civil rights battles a generation ago that led to some of the most famous disruptions in Senate history.
“I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking this is easy,” Schumer told reporters on Wednesday. He described the push as a “hard fight”.
Democrats have vowed to tackle a wave of new state laws, inspired by Donald Trump’s false allegations of election theft, that have made it difficult to vote. But after an initial flurry of activity, Democrats’ efforts in the narrowly divided Senate, lacking 60 votes to overcome Republican stalling, faltered, leading to their calls for a rule change.
They have recently tried to breathe new life into the effort. Biden delivered a fiery speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, telling senators that they will all be “judged by history” if they fail to act. He is scheduled to meet with Democratic senators at the Capitol on Thursday in an effort to advance the effort.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell offered a scathing refutation of Biden’s speech on Wednesday, objecting to his comparison of voting law opponents with racist historical figures, including George Wallace, the racist governor of Alabama who ran for president, and Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederacy.
“You cannot devise a better declaration of legislative procrastination than we have just seen: a president who abandons rational persuasion for the sake of pure demagogy,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, of the Senate. A president’s outcry that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racist unless he gets what he wants is proof of exactly why policymakers built the Senate to check his power. “
When asked Wednesday for a response to McConnell’s comments, Biden turned and took off his black mask and said, “I love Mitch McConnell. He’s a friend.” The response came during Biden’s trip to the Capitol to pay his respects to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who died last month and was lying in state in the Rotunda.
Republicans almost unanimously oppose the voting bill, viewing it as a federal overreach that would infringe on states’ abilities to conduct their own elections. They noted that Democrats opposed the changes to the disruption that Trump sought when he was president.
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For Democrats and Biden, the legislation is a political necessity. Failure to pass it would break a major campaign promise to black voters, who helped hand Democrats control of the White House and Congress, and come just before the midterm elections when a weak Democratic majority is at stake. It would be the second major setback to Biden’s agenda in a month after Manchin halted work on the president’s $2 trillion package of social and environmental initiatives shortly before Christmas.
The current package of voting legislation and ethics will lead to the largest reform of American elections in a generation, removing obstacles to voting enacted in the name of election security, reducing the influence of big money in politics and limiting partisan influence on election draws. Congress districts. The package would create national election standards that would override GOP laws at the state level. It would also restore the Department of Justice’s ability to monitor election laws in states with a history of discrimination.
Many civil rights activists believe Biden pressed too little on voting rights and too late to pursue aggressively after GOP-backed changes to state voting laws, which they see as a more subtle form of voting restrictions such as the literacy tests and ballot taxes they used to In the previous. Denying black voters the right to vote. Some boycotted Biden’s speech in Atlanta on Tuesday.
The New Georgia Project, a group founded by Georgia Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, was among those who called on Biden to skip the rhetoric.
“We have heard speech like this before,” the group said in a statement. “A goal without a plan is just a desire.”
Schumer had set Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday, January 17, as a deadline to either pass voting legislation or consider a review of the disruption rules. It is unclear whether the planned vote on rule changes will continue.
Manchin, who played a key role in writing the Democrats’ voting legislation, threw cold water on the hopes Tuesday, saying that any changes would have to be made with broad Republican approval — even though no Republican senators were willing to sign off.
That confused South Carolina Representative Jim Cleburne, the 3rd Democratic Representative in the House of Representatives and the leading member of the Congressional black block in Congress.
Claiborne questioned the wisdom of bipartisan reflexology, noting that the right to vote was granted to newly freed slaves in a vote on the party line.
“He appears to support disrupting his bill,” Claiborne said of Manchin. “That, to us, is very frustrating.”
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