An attempt by Senate Democrats to change the filibuster failed last night, right after a so-called voting rights bill also failed to pass in the Senate chamber.
After the “voting rights” bill failed in a 49-51 vote yesterday, Senate Democrats teed up a vote to modify the filibuster, which requires the vote of 60 senators in order to move forward with pieces of legislation.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the proposed change would have ended the 60-vote threshold only for elections legislation, and replaced the threshold with a “talking filibuster,” where senators can only stop a bill from being voted on by actively speaking on the Senate floor.
The goal of the change was for Senate Democrats to be able to pass the “voting rights” legislation without any Republican support.
The proposed changed failed, after moderate Democrat Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema joined with all 50 Republicans to defeat the proposal, 52-48. A majority was needed to approve the change.
Senate Democrats, and President Joe Biden, have been pushing hard to pass the “voting rights” legislation, which they argue is essential to protect the rights of minorities to vote.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden visited the state of Georgia to advocate for the bill, and endorse a change to the filibuster if needed to pass the legislation.
“We must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” President Biden said. “Debate them. Vote. Let the majority prevail … And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
The “voting rights” legislation would have essentially federalized elections, and according to The WSJ, would:
- Make Election Day a national holiday.
- Require states to allow voters to register on the day of an election starting in November 2022.
- Mandate 15 days of early voting.
- Restore voting rights to felons who have completed their prison sentences.
- Force all states to allow mail-in voting, among other provisions. In states that require voter identification, it would require more than a dozen different kinds to be accepted, banning types like student ID forms or utility bills from being excluded.
- Create a formula for providing a minimum number of drop boxes in each region.
The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Legal Fellow, Hans A. von Spakovsky, argues that the only “attack on democracy” that is occurring is in these so-called “voting rights” bills.
“[The bills] would interfere with the ability of states and citizens to determine the qualifications and eligibility of voters, ensure the accuracy of voter registration rolls, secure the fairness and integrity of elections, participate and speak freely in the political process, and determine the district boundary lines for electing their representatives,” Spakovsky explains.
Several days ago, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly tweeted his support for keeping the filibuster in place and unchanged.
“Preserve the filibuster,” Daly urged. “This country will not be able to function successfully if it’s eliminated because one party will pass sweeping legislation in one session and the next party will deconstruct it once they are in power and pass their own sweeping contrary laws.”
“Rigging the pendulum of democracy is not healthy…let it swing,” he added.
Though the filibuster is only a Senate rule, nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution, it is an enduring measure that gives the minority party power over contested legislation. Without the filibuster, dozens of bills that harm the family and the nation would have become law over the past year.
One such bill is the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which would have overridden state pro-life laws and legalized abortion nationwide through all stages of pregnancy. This radical bill passed out of the House last September in a 218-211 vote and would likely have passed the Senate without the filibuster.
Though yesterday’s proposed change to the filibuster would have only modified the rule for election law, it’s a short stop between modifying the rule for one area – and abolishing it entirely.
Thankfully, for now the filibuster has been preserved.
Photo from Reuters.