Double Trouble: Pair of Dem Senators Join GOP to Torpedo Biden’s Election Reform Agenda
12:04 GMT 20.01.2022 (Updated: 12:23 GMT 20.01.2022)
© AP Photo / J. Scott ApplewhiteSen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., left, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of N.Y., depart Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017
© AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite
President Biden marked the one-year anniversary of his presidency Wednesday, acknowledging at a solo press conference that “our work’s not done” amid spiking inflation and bad Covid news. Several of Biden’s major legislative initiatives, a $1.75 trln social and climate spending package and two voting reform bills, are deadlocked in Congress.
A push by Senate Democrats to drop a rule requiring a 60-vote majority in favour of a simple majority to pass a pair of election bills failed Wednesday night, with two Democrats – Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, refusing to budge from their hardline positions and joining with Senate Republicans to squash the effort.
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) called the vote in an attempt to drop the 60 vote threshold rule – known as the filibuster, for the pair of bills, known as the ‘Freedom to Vote Act’ and the ‘John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act’.
Democrats envision the legislation as a means to ease access to elections, reduce alleged systemic discrimination against minorities and protect election officials from partisan influence. Republican lawmakers have expressed vocal opposition to the bills, claiming that they would create unconstitutional federal encroachments on state and local elections and arguing that they would make it easier to engage in voter fraud.
Senator Manchin – the self-described ‘moderate’ Democrat responsible for singlehandedly sinking President Biden’s ambitious $1.75 trillion Build Back Better agenda late last year, made good on his promise to oppose his party’s push to drop the 60-vote threshold on the election bills in Wednesday’s vote.
Together with Kyrsten Sinema and all fifty Senate Republicans, the push to drop the filibuster failed in a vote of 48-52.
Schumer proceeded with a vote on the voting bills anyway, with the ballot predictably resulting in a 50/50 split between Senate Democrats and Republicans.
“A few hours ago in this chamber, with the eyes of the nation upon it and with the evidence of vote suppression laid bare before it; with very little refutation from the other side…took a vote to move to final passage on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It received fifty votes, and with the Vice President we would have had a majority,” Schumer lamented in a speech on the Senate floor after midnight early Thursday morning.
“Unfortunately under the current rules of the Senate the door is closed to moving forward on these laws, so much part of the core values of our country,” Schumer added. “Even if you think the filibuster is a good thing, isn’t protecting voting rights, and preventing their diminution more important? Particularly when this rule was not always in existence and was not envisioned by the Founders?” the politician asked.
Manchin and Sinema defended their hardline positions ahead of the vote, with the West Virginia Democrat daring his party to primary him in the next election. “I’ve been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me,” Manchin said Tuesday. “The majority of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus have changed their minds. I respect that. They have a right to change their minds. I haven’t. I hope they respect that too. I’ve never changed my mind on the filibuster,” he added.
“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart,” Manchin said in a separate address Wednesday.
20 January, 01:59 GMT
Sinema said last week that while she supports her party’s efforts to improve the elections process, the partisan division eating away at America was worse. “These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the disease itself. And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country,” the senator indicated.
Manchin and Sinema have been subjected to growing criticism among Democrats, and sometimes characterised as DINOs, or ‘Democrats in Name Only’, over their tendency to vote against their own party on important measures.