Jan 19, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Schumer pushes for doomed filibuster changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen speaking with reporters on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus Tuesday night he plans to propose instituting a one-time "talking" filibuster requirement, and bypassing the 60-vote threshold for major legislation, to pass the party's election reforms package via simple majority.

Why it matters: While Schumer acknowledged both votes are expected to fail — and some vulnerable Democrats up for re-election feel it will put them in a tough spot — he argued it's worth putting members on the record for historic legislation.

  • “Win, lose or draw, we’re gonna vote. Members of this chamber were elected to debate and vote,” Schumer said during a news conference that followed the caucus meeting.
  • "Once members of the minority party have exhausted all of their speaking rights and defended their position on the Senate floor, the debate will have run its course and the Senate will move to vote on final passage at a majority threshold."
  • "To anyone who says, 'Oh, well, you may not win, don't do it,' look at history," Schumer said, before quoting Martin Luther King Jr., whose 93rd birthday was marked Monday.

Between the lines: Senate Republicans are expected to block, for a fourth time, the Democrats' voting rights legislation.

  • Once that occurs, Schumer will put forward the one-time Senate rules changes.
  • The first would require a senator to maintain continuous speaking to filibuster a bill; the latter would allow for a simple 51-vote majority to pass a major bill.
  • Each is expected to fail because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) oppose changing the 60-vote threshold — including one-time carveouts.

Behind the scenes: Senate Democrats met on the ninth floor of the Senate's Hart office building Tuesday night to go over their strategy ahead of the planned votes.

  • Manchin was present and asked several questions, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told Axios, and Sinema — as well as multiple other members — joined by phone.
  • On his way to the meeting, Manchin essentially rejected the new plan, telling reporters: “There's never been a simple majority vote to basically get off a debate. … I don’t know how you break a rule to make a rule.”
  • Sinema was clear in a floor speech last week she would not gut the filibuster rule.

The big picture: Some Senate Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), went so far as to suggest they're open to supporting primary challengers to Manchin and Sinema if they refuse to bypass the filibuster in order to pass election reforms.

  • Schumer refused to weigh in, saying he wouldn't get into the politics of this fight.
  • Manchin, meanwhile, sounded unfazed by the prospect.
  • "I've been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me," Manchin told reporters. "It's rough and tumble. We're used to that. Bring it on."
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