Kamala Harris Struggles to Push Voting Rights Bill Through 'Brick Wall' of Moderate Opposition
The voting rights legislation has faced an obstacle from the Democratic Party's centrists on its way through Congress, as Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have voiced their opposition to changing the filibuster rule - the Senate's 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation.
Vice President Kamala Harris, tasked with leading the Biden administration's voting rights initiative, appears to have done more work on this issue than was publicly known - but still not enough to muscle through the legislative obstacles in the bill's way to the president's desk, Politico reported Saturday.
According to the report, the vice president "helped craft political coalitions with civil rights leaders, built outside pressure on Congress and engaged privately with lawmakers", while also meeting with black leaders, offering proposals that could be done to promote voter engagement and adding her media profile.
However, the Friday move by fellow Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to oppose changing the Senate rules in order to help the voting rights bill reach the floor and be debated appeared to have blocked her efforts.
Both Manchin and Sinema do not agree with altering the filibuster rule for the sake of the voting rights legislation: Sinema has dubbed such efforts as attempts of "wild reversals of federal policy", and Manchin fully supports his fellow centrist colleague.
Still, Harris is reportedly "unbowed" by the setback, and she has even hinted that the two Democratic centrists are responsible for obstructing the passage of the voting rights bill, saying that she does not think "anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy, especially when they took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution."
According to Politico, Harris remains determined to get her voting rights mission accomplished, with her team already "formulating plans on what next steps look like and that both public and private engagements for Harris are being discussed."
Some people familiar with the developments said that even despite the Friday setback, progress on voting rights has been achieved.
“If you think about the beginning of this year, there were very few Senate Democrats who supported doing this on the filibuster. Right? Today it's basically two people who don't. That is a significant shift,” one person familiar with the administration's thinking told Politico.
However, Harris has not publicly elaborated on what her plans on pushing voting rights are right now.
“Well, we keep fighting. We are committed to seeing this through however long it takes and whatever it takes," she told reporters Friday, only hinting that she had some "extensive meetings and discussions about how we can see this through" on that same day.
The voting rights bill rests in legislative limbo as of now, with Democrats passing a separate bill on Thursday that combines the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Still, as long as the filibuster rule remains in place, the voting rights legislation is likely to hit another brick wall - in the form of staunch Republican opposition. The GOP remains united in denouncing the initiative as an attempt by Democrats to "control" elections and pave the way for voter fraud.
"Top Dems have floated breaking the rules for years now. This isn't about new voting laws. It's about silencing voters who inconvenience Democrats," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said at the beginning of the week.