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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some Democrats hope they can use the pending fight over their massive voting rights package to convince more skeptical Democrats to back filibuster reforms, Axios has learned from conversations with lawmakers and their aides.

Why it matters: Many Democrats were thrilled after President Biden said Tuesday night he supports the return of the "talking filibuster" — but they're still a long way from any sort of meaningful change to the rule.

What we're hearing: Some Democrats think that if Republicans repeatedly refuse to play ball on substantial legislation or insist on changes that would kill the Democrats' legislation altogether, they may be able to enlist more of their colleagues.

  • The key marker is S. 1, the Senate's version of H.R. 1 — ceremonial titles for a bill the majority leadership deems to be that Congress' top priority.
  • Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) delivered a powerful speech in defense of the "For the People Act" on the Senate floor Wednesday, calling recent pushes for new voting restrictions across the country, "Jim Crow in new clothes."
  • Top Senate aides also tell Axios that legacy is a big part of their pitch to members reluctant to alter the filibuster: Do they really want to be remembered as standing in the way of the administration's ability to enact significant policy when Democrats not only control the White House but both chambers of Congress?

What they're saying: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who says she’s long wanted to make this change, said: “If the Republicans block S. 1, that will turn up the heat on taking away Mitch McConnell's veto.”

  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who thinks “filibustering should be rare and should be difficult” said blocking S. 1 could potentially be the trigger for filibuster reform.
  • "I certainly think that voting rights, as public policy, is first among equals," Schatz said. "It's a higher-order priority in terms of American-style democracy than any other public policy objective.”

The state of play: Several Democrats, including swing-state senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana have concerns with getting rid of the Senate rule.

  • They're especially opposed to eliminating the 60-vote threshold required to end debate and vote on legislation.
  • Manchin said Wednesday a carve-out for a specific bill like S. 1 is "a little bit like being pregnant, maybe."
  • Far more are open to changing it, but there's still broad disagreement about what those changes could look like.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of moderate senators met for lunch Wednesday, and some Republicans said they hope these meetings — and constant reminders of Biden's commitment to bipartisanship — can keep Democrats from taking action.

  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that if Democrats alter the filibuster, it would undermine their broader efforts for compromise.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) even discounted Biden's idea of bringing back the "talking filibuster," which would require senators to speak continuously for hours to prevent the opposing party from calling for a vote.
  • "Heck, we could all talk, I'm not sure that changes much for me. The key thing is make sure that legislation that passes out of Washington has bipartisan support," said Romney, another luncheon attendee.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

1 hour ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 2 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."