Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that Democrats would take up voting bills immediately once they return in January and that they may take up changes to Senate rules if Republicans continue to block them.
“The Senate will consider voting rights legislation, as early as the first week back,” Schumer wrote in a Dear Colleague letter Monday. “Previous attempts to simply debate such legislation have been obstructed by Republican filibusters, effectively defending the voter suppression and election nullification laws passed by so many Republican state legislatures on party lines with simple majorities.”
“If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation,” Schumer wrote.
Schumer’s letter comes several days after the Senate adjourned for the year having not passed any of Democrats’ long-sought voting bills. Schumer has brought them to the floor throughout 2021, but Republicans have repeatedly blocked them, with the GOP saying that they amount to little more than a federal takeover of elections.
If the Senate were to abolish the 60-vote threshold, Democrats could pass a voting bill over Republican objections as long as every member of the majority votes in favor.
It remains unclear, however, whether Schumer would have enough support from within his caucus to change Senate rules. He would need backing from every Democrat, assuming that every Republican would be opposed, and moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have repeatedly opposed altering the filibuster in any way.
Manchin on Sunday also officially came out as a “no” on Democrats’ social spending package, severely, if not mortally, imperiling the bill.
Despite the uncertain support, Schumer said that forcing a vote would put senators’ positions on changing Senate rules on the record.
“I believe our constituents deserve to know which Senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which Senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the Founders’ intentions,” Schumer said.
“Members will be given the chance to debate on the Senate floor and cast a vote so that their choice on this matter is clear and available for everyone to see,” he added.
Over the summer, one of the chamber’s moderate Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, vowed not to support the voting legislation or ditching the filibuster to get it passed.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics. Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner,” he noted in a column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
“Throughout my tenure in politics, I have been guided by this simple philosophy — our party labels can’t prevent us from doing what is right,” he said, reflecting on his time as West Virginia’s secretary of state, and then governor.
“Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage,” he wrote.
“Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it,” the Democratic senator continued.
“As such, congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials,” he noted further.
The Daily Caller News Foundation contributed to this report.