Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
With no clear way forward on their voting rights goals, Senate Democrats are looking for a method by which they can force a vote and work around 52 of their colleagues who have either resisted the legislation or the rules changes that would be needed to overcome the filibuster.
According to a report by The Hill, the most popular emerging strategy is to bring a bill that combines both the John Lewis Voting Rights and For the People bills through a process known as “message,” which will allow Democrats to overcome a Republican filibuster to start debate, then force Republicans to actually deliver on their threat of filibuster.
The thought is that Republicans would eventually run out of energy, speeches, or procedural maneuvers, thereby allowing the legislation to eventually face a simple majority vote.
“We wouldn’t need a rules change to pass the bill by simple majority if the debate is over,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), one of the Democrats involved in the formulation of this new strategy, told The Hill. “Theoretically, you do not need a rules change to pass a bill that’s on the floor, you just have to allow debate to occur.”
This plan is unlikely to produce the end Democrats want. Not only would this be a rarely used strategy, it would also depend on 50 Republicans relenting on legislation they’ve fervently opposed since at least November 2020.
While Democrats’ voting rights proposals are expansive, conservative resistance has been as concise as it has been fierce.
The proposed legislation would, in addition to granting Congress the ability to preapprove state-level election changes, require all states to offer mail-in voting options, a practice Republicans have steadfastly lambasted as susceptible to corruption.
Republican senators have also argued that the legislation would strip the states of their constitutionally granted rights to conduct elections as they see fit.
Others, such as Hill opinion contributor Kristin Tate, view the legislation as a means for Democrats to keep a “thumb on the scale” and protect their election prospects in 2024 by federalizing elections and making permanent the emergency COVID voting measures that were enacted in 2020.
“Pandemic emergency voting measures such as mass mail-in voting, often involving unrequested ballots sent by states and ballot drop boxes, fundamentally transformed the electoral landscape in 2020,” Tate wrote Tuesday. “Such efforts are key to Democrats’ hopes in 2024 — last election, 58 percent of Joe Biden voters voted by mail; this was almost double the rate of Donald Trump voters.”
There’s a chance Democrats’ emerging strategy isn’t employed. Not only would it likely fail, assuming Republicans are as resolute as they have been, it would also strengthen conservatives’ claims that Democrats are deepening divisions.
More likely, Democrats are heading back toward a cloture vote that will require 60 yeas to pass or a vote to change Senate rules and remove the filibuster.
This vote could pass by simple majority but, with Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) joining Republicans, it is also unlikely to pass. Democrats still hold out some hope that they can convince (some might argue coerce) Sinema or Manchin to relent on the rules change.
Undeterred, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attempted to ratchet up public pressure in that direction on Twitter Monday.
As the voting rights bill finally comes to the floor of the Senate, there is only one vote which will really matter. Will 50 Democrats vote to override the filibuster, protect American democracy and pass the bill, or will Manchin and Sinema vote with the GOP and let the bill die?
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 17, 2022
Sanders’ move is unlikely to work. A similar strategy failed in October, when Sanders wrote a letter to the newspaper in West Virginia’s capital city in the hopes of shaming Manchin into changing his stance on Build Back Better.