ALL NEWS

Voting bill blocked by GOP filibuster, Dems try rules change

Jan 19, 2022, 7:11 PM
In this image from Senate Television, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks on the floor of the U.S. Se...
In this image from Senate Television, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Senate Television via AP)
(Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voting legislation that Democrats and civil rights groups argued is vital for protecting democracy was blocked Wednesday by a Republican filibuster, a setback for President Joe Biden and his party after a raw, emotional debate.

Democrats were poised to immediately pivot to voting on a Senate rules change as a way to overcome the filibuster and approve the bill with a simple majority. But the rules change was also headed toward defeat, as Biden has been unable to persuade two holdout senators in his own party,

Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to change the Senate procedures for this one bill.

“This is not just another routine day in the Senate, this is a moral moment,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

The initial vote was 49-51, short of the 60 votes needed to advance over the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voted no for procedural reasons so Democrats can revisit the legislation.

The nighttime voting capped a day of piercing debate that carried echoes of an earlier era when the Senate filibuster was deployed in lengthy speeches by opponents of civil rights legislation.

Voting rights advocates are warning that Republican-led states nationwide are passing laws making it more difficult for Black Americans and others to vote by consolidating polling locations, requiring certain types of identification and ordering other changes.

Vice President Kamala Harris presided, able to cast a potentially tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 Senate.

Democrats decided to press ahead despite the potential for high-stakes defeat at a tumultuous time for Biden and his party. Biden is marking his first year in office with his priorities stalling out in the face of solid Republican opposition and the Democrats’ inability to unite around their own goals. But the Democrats wanted to force senators on the record — even their own party’s holdouts — to show voters where they stand.

“I haven’t given up,” Biden said earlier at a White House news conference.

Sinema and Manchin have withstood an onslaught of criticism from Black leaders and civil rights organizations, and they risk further political fallout as other groups and even their own colleagues threaten to yank campaign support.

Schumer contended the fight is not over and he ridiculed Republican claims that the new election laws in the states will not end up hurting voter access and turnout, comparing it to Donald Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 presidential election.

The Democrats’ bill, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, would make Election Day a national holiday, ensure access to early voting and mail-in ballots — which have become especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic — and enable the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes. It has passed the House.

Both Manchin and Sinema say they support the legislation but are unwilling to change Senate rules. With a 50-50 split, Democrats have a narrow Senate majority — Harris can break a tie — but they lack the 60 votes needed to overcome the GOP filibuster.

Instead, Schumer put forward a more specific rules change for a “talking filibuster” on this one bill. It would require senators to stand at their desks and exhaust the debate before holding a simple majority vote, rather than the current practice that simply allows senators to privately signal their objections.

But even that is expected to fail because Manchin and Sinema have said they are unwilling to change the rules on a party-line vote by Democrats alone.

Emotions were on display during the floor debate.

When Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky whether he would pause for a question, McConnell left the chamber, refusing to respond.

Durbin said he would have asked McConnell, “Does he really believe that there’s no evidence of voter suppression?”

The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, said at one point, “I am not a racist.”

McConnell, who led his party in doing away with the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees during Donald Trump’s presidency, warned against changing the rules again.

McConnell derided the “fake hysteria” from Democrats over the states’ new voting laws and called the pending bill a federal takeover of election systems. He said doing away with filibuster rules would “break the Senate.”

Manchin drew a roomful of senators for his own speech, upstaging the president’s news conference and defending the filibuster. He said majority rule would only “add fuel to the fire” and it was “dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart.”

“For those who say bipartisanship is impossible, we have proven them wrong,” Manchin said, citing the recent infrastructure bill he helped pass into law. “We can do it again. … We can make it easier to vote.”

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked across the Capitol building for the proceedings. “We want this Senate to act today in a favorable way. But if it don’t, we ain’t giving up,” said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest-ranking Black member of Congress.

Manchin did open the door to a more tailored package of voting law changes, including to the Electoral Count Act, which was tested during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. He said senators from both parties are working on that and it could draw Republican support.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said a bipartisan coalition should work on legislation to ensure voter access, particularly in far-flung areas like her state, and to shore up Americans’ faith in democracy.

“We don’t need, we do not need a repeat of 2020 when by all accounts our last president, having lost the election, sought to change the results,” said Murkowski.

She said the Senate debate had declined to a troubling state: “You’re either a racist or a hypocrite. Really, really? Is that where we are?”

Once reluctant himself to change Senate rules, Biden has stepped up his pressure on senators to do just that. But the push from the White House, including Biden’s blistering speech last week in Atlanta comparing opponents to segregationists, is seen as too late.

At one point Democratic senators huddled in the cloakroom, in deep discussion with Manchin. Sinema sat in her chair throughout the debate, largely glued to her phone.
___
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Brian Slodysko contributed to this report.
___
This story has been corrected to show the name of the act tested by Jan. 6 events is the Electoral Count Act, not the Electoral College Act.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

At least 127 people are dead and hundreds more injured, police say, after chaos and violence erup...
Heather Chen, Raja Razek and Kareem El Damanhoury, CNN

Indonesia stadium riot: At least 127 people reported dead following soccer match, police say

At least 127 people are dead and hundreds more injured, police say, after chaos and violence erupted late on Saturday following an Indonesian league soccer match between two of the nation's biggest teams.
1 day ago
The National Archives has told the House Oversight Committee that certain presidential records from...
Whitney Wild and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

National Archives says it still doesn’t have all Trump White House records

The National Archives has told the House Oversight Committee that certain presidential records from the Trump administration remain outstanding, citing information that some White House staff used non-official electronic systems to conduct official business.
1 day ago
Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during the Sat...
Waverly Golden

Saturday morning conference session makes history

During the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Tracy Y. Browning became the first Black woman to ever speak at a general conference.
1 day ago
u of u student arrested...
Waverly Golden

Other paths to consider when thinking about attending college

Following the student loan forgiveness announcement, college is on everyone's mind. Dave Noriega takes an in-depth look at the alternatives.
1 day ago
Around 1:02 p.m. this afternoon, a pickup truck with two occupants ended up in a ditch filled with ...
Waverly Golden

Pickup truck crash leaves two dead

The Utah Department of Public Safety says the occupants, a male driver and passenger sustained fatal injuries. 
1 day ago
Firefighter Fred Woods assesses damages at Tragedy Springs (Jonathan Pierce Calfire)...
Dan Bammes

The sad history of Tragedy Spring

The Mormon Battalion historic site, high in the Sierras is in sad shape after windstorms and wildfires.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Voting bill blocked by GOP filibuster, Dems try rules change