Schumer Threatens Senate Rules Change Vote on Filibuster By MLK Day

Schumer Threatens Senate Rules Change Vote on Filibuster By MLK Day

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
January 3, 2022

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned Monday that he will force a vote on Senate will debate and vote on changes to the Senate rules change on filibuster by Jan. 17 if Republicans get in Democrats way once again on blocking their priority legislation regarding voting reform.

In a letter to colleagues Monday, Schumer said the Senate will debate and vote on changing the rules if Republicans block a vote on the Freedom to Vote Act backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Schumer vowed a vote on Senate reforms by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17.

"The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy," Schumer wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to the Senate Democratic Caucus.

"We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections," Schumer added.

Schumer has vowed to take up voting legislation upon returning to Washington in the first week of January and warned Democrats would pursue changes to the Senate rules if Republicans continue to block the legislation as they have done so several times in 2021.

For months, Senate Democrats have tried to find a path forward on elections reform and voting rights legislation, arguing that doing so is necessary to ensure ballot access in GOP-led states that have enacted new restrictive laws. Republicans have used the 60-vote legislative filibuster to block Democrats from bring up the House-passed voting reform legislation, arguing the bill would take away states rights in order to federalize elections.

The Senate Majority Leader used his Monday letter to the Democratic caucus invoked the Jan.6 Capitol riot, with the first year of the attacks is set to take place this week, to "directly link" voting rights legislation. Schumer also cited election law changes in states like Texas and Georgia to laying out his case as reason needing to change the Senate rules.

"Make no mistake about it: this week Senate Democrats will make clear that what happened on January 6th and the one-sided, partisan actions being taken by Republican-led state legislatures across the country are directly linked, and we can and must take strong action to stop this anti-democratic march," Schumer wrote in the letter.

"Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the U.S Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions," Schumer added.

Schumer argued that the Senate rules had been "hijacked to guarantee obstruction."

"We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? We must adapt. The Senate must evolve like it has many times before."

Changes to the filibuster with GOP support would need total unity from all 50 Democratic Senators, something Schumer doesn't have at the moment. Both moderate Democrats, Manchin. and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have said they are against Democrats using the "nuclear option" that would allow their caucuc to change the rules on their own.

However, it is reported that a group of Senate Democrats have met quietly with both moderate Democrat Senators to test their temparatures on the idea of a carving out exemption to the Senate rules for certain bills but leave overall the filibuster intact. There are growing support within Senate Democratic caucus to change the 60-vote legislative filibuster, with Senators such as Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who is up for re-election this year, supporting the idea of lowering the filiabuster treshold for voting rights legislation.

Biden recently said that he would supports s creating an exception to the legislative filibuster in the Senate in order to pass voting rights legislation over Republican opposition.

"That means whatever it takes. Change the Senate rules to accommodate major pieces of legislation without requiring 60 votes. The only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster, I support making an exception on voting rights of the filibuster," Biden told ABC News’s David Muir last month.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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