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Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Photo: Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Raphael Warnock tells Axios he won't let the Senate's fixation on passing a pair of infrastructure bills prevent it from also protecting the voting system that narrowly allowed him to win his new job.

What they're saying: "We can walk and chew gum at the same time," the Georgia Democrat said. "Voting rights is bigger than the filibuster. And shame on us if we're more committed to a Senate rule (preserving it) than we are to the principles of democracy."

  • "I am not going to allow (voting rights) to get pushed aside," the freshman said.
  • President Biden was seen walking with Warnock, arm on his shoulder, as he concluded a visit to the Senate Democratic lunch at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

Warnock's not alone on either front.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he and several of his colleagues "feel like we're on a mission after Jan. 6."
  • "We don't view this as just like any other issue. We view this as like, 'I will support and defend the Constitution,'" he said.
  • He reiterated he thinks the only way they'll be successful in passing voting rights legislation is by finding some sort of workaround to the filibuster: “It just strikes me as unlikely that we'll get their help in trying to protect the right to vote."

Between the lines: Democrats set the bar far too high with the "For the People Act," which was always too ambitious to have a real shot at passing. Now, those who care about it are desperately trying to keep the issue relevant as it takes a backseat to infrastructure.

  • The problem is — and like most things in Congress — the more time that passes the less political will there is to do anything.
  • Texas lawmakers flew to Washington and held a series of news conferences — including another Wednesday — about their effort to block the Republican-controlled legislature in their state from passing a voting reform bill.
  • Biden also delivered a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday lambasting efforts to curb voting rights.

The big picture: The concern voiced by Warnock, Kaine and other Democrats is rooted in the jam-packed agenda that senators confront through the end of the year.

  • Leaders see August recess as a deadline to ensure their highest priority agenda items see progress.
  • As of now, infrastructure is dominating this period, and police reform — if negotiators can produce legislative text — sounds like the closest second.
  • Once the Senate returns in September, it will have to deal with revising the debt limit and extending government funding.

Be smart: That leaves little time to haggle over other massive legislation, with preserving or restoring voting rights potentially left out of the discussion.

Go deeper

Hill votes will make global waves

President Biden addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

This epic week for President Biden on Capitol Hill is even bigger than his domestic agenda.

Why it matters: Biden has anchored his entire strategy for foreign affairs on the notion that "America is back." What that means in practice is that Biden needs to prove democracy works to rally America’s liberal allies against rising authoritarians.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

2 hours ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.