Voting bill collapses, Democrats unable to change filibuster | National policy

By LISA MASCARO – AP Congress Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Electoral legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders say is vital to protecting democracy fell apart when two senators refused to join their own party to change Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster after a raw and emotional debate.

The result Wednesday night was a crushing defeat for President Joe Biden and his party, coming to the tumultuous conclusion of his first year in office.

Despite a day of hard-hitting debates and speeches that often echoed an earlier era when senatorial filibuster was deployed by opponents of civil rights legislation, Democrats could not persuade recalcitrant senators Kirsten Sinema from Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia change Senate procedures on this bill and allow a simple majority to move it forward.

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“I am deeply disappointed,” Biden said in a statement after the vote.

However, the president said he was “not discouraged” and pledged to “explore all measures and use all tools at our disposal to defend democracy”.

Suffrage advocates warn Republican-led states nationwide are pass laws making it harder for black Americans and others to vote by consolidating polling places, requiring certain types of identification, and ordering other changes.

Vice President Kamala Harris briefly chaired the Senate, able to break a 50-50 Senate tie if necessary, but left before the final vote. The rules change was defeated 52-48, with Manchin and Sinema joining the Republicans in opposition.

The nightly vote ended, for now, legislation that had been a top priority for Democrats since the party took control of Congress and the White House.

“It’s a moral moment,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

Democrats’ bill, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, would make Election Day a national holiday, guarantee access to early voting and mail-in ballots – which became especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic – and would allow the Department of Justice to intervene in states with a history of election interference, among other changes. He passed the Chamber.

Manchin and Sinema say they support the legislation, but Democrats fall short of the 60 votes needed to pass the Republican filibuster bill. He failed to advance 51-49 on a largely partisan vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., voted against it so the bill could be considered later.

Then Schumer proposed a rule change for a “talking buccaneer” on that bill alone. This would require senators to stand at their desks and exhaust the debate before holding a simple majority vote, rather than the current practice of simply allowing senators to privately signal their objections.

But that, too, failed because Manchin and Sinema were unwilling to change Senate rules by a party-line vote of only Democrats.

Emotions were at the rendezvous during the debate on the ground.

When Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky if he would pause for a question, McConnell left the chamber, refusing to answer.

Durbin said he would have asked McConnell, “Does he really believe there is no evidence of voter suppression?

Republican No. 2, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, said at one point, “I’m not a racist.”

McConnell, who led his party to remove the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees during Donald Trump’s presidency, warned of a further change to the rules.

McConnell derided Democrats’ “phony hysteria” over new state election laws and called the pending bill a federal takeover of electoral systems. He warned Democrats in a fiery speech and said scrapping the filibuster rules would “break the Senate.”

Manchin drew a roomful of senators for his own speech, overshadowing the president’s press conference and defending the filibuster. He said the move to a majority Senate would only deepen the “dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart.”

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked through the Capitol for the debates. “We want this Senate to act favorably today. But if not, we won’t give up,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn, DS.C., the highest-ranking black member of Congress.

Manchin opened the door to a more tailored set of election law changes, including to the voter count law, which was tested during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. He said senators from both parties are working on it and it could draw support from Republicans.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said a bipartisan coalition should work on legislation to ensure voter access, especially in remote areas like her state, and to build Americans’ faith in democracy.

“We don’t need, we don’t need a repeat of 2020 when obviously our last president, having lost the election, sought to alter the results,” Murkowski said.

She said the debate in the Senate had declined in a disturbing state: “You are either a racist or a hypocrite. Really really? Is this where we are?

At one point, senators burst into applause after a spirited debate between Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, among the most experienced lawmakers, and incoming Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., over the history of the voting rights law.

Sinema sat in her chair for much of the day’s debate, much of it glued to her phone, but rose to vote against the rule change.

In a statement, Sinema said the outcome “must not be the end of our work to protect our democracy”. But she warned that “these challenges cannot be solved by any one party or by Washington alone.”

Schumer argued that the fight is not over and he ridiculed Republican claims that new state election laws won’t end up hurting voter access and participation, comparing it to the “big lie from Trump on the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats have decided to press ahead despite the potential for high-stakes defeat as Biden marks his first year in office with his priorities stalled in the face of strong Republican opposition and the Democrats’ inability to stand up. unite around their own goals. They wanted to compel senators to go public — even holdouts from their own party — to show voters where they stand.

Once reluctant to change Senate rules, Biden has stepped up pressure on senators to do just that. But the push from the White House, including Biden’s scathing speech last week in Atlanta comparing opponents of segregationists, is considered too late.

Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.

This story has been corrected to show that the name of the law being tested by the events of January 6 is the Electoral Count Law, not the Electoral College Law.

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