The first episode of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) summer floor vote series meant to highlight Republican obstruction and frustrate the Democratic holdouts on the filibuster went off with a whimper Tuesday night.
Republicans filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act, meant to help eliminate the gender pay gap, their second use of the procedure since they blocked the January 6 commission. It was a 49-50 vote, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) not present. Democrats would have needed 60 votes to move the legislation forward.
The legislation had special resonance for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who was one of the bill’s original cosponsors and is a primary target of these floor votes. But his emotional state after watching Republicans block this legislation again — they’ve done so multiple times in the past — seemed short of the anger Democrats are hoping to stir to finally convince him to dismantle the filibuster.
“As an original cosponsor of this bill I am disappointed that the Senate was unable to pass this much needed legislation, but I will continue the fight for equal pay across the United States,” he told reporters.
Schumer’s plan seems to be heaping up the pain by accumulation: he announced that throughout June he’d bring to the floor legislation related to gun control and LGBTQ rights, as well as the headline S.1 voting rights package, which Manchin opposes. It’s all likely to fail in the face of Republican filibusters.
Still, the first installment of this tactic didn’t rate a ton of advertising or attention from Senate leadership. Even Schumer’s floor speech Tuesday morning was dominated more by the coming passage of a bill to bolster U.S. competitiveness with China, and the Senate committees’ January 6 report, with the Paycheck Fairness Act relegated to the last section. Chatter on the Hill was much more focused on the infrastructure negotiations than the sure-to-fail pay gap vote.
Meanwhile, with Manchin’s refusal to touch the filibuster reiterated as recently as last weekend, the future of the term seems grim for Democrats who wanted to deliver, with President Joe Biden, a New Deal-esque slate of legislation.
As Biden moves on to negotiate with another bipartisan group on infrastructure — one that has already taken all tax hikes off the table — Democrats are mindful of the one reconciliation vehicle they have left, all that it seems the parliamentarian will allow per her newest ruling, to bundle through legislative priorities with a simple majority.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made clear on Tuesday, and has said in the past, that he’s ready to get moving on reconciliation and will possibly do so by July. He told reporters that the reconciliation bill will include both the American Jobs Plan (Biden’s physical infrastructure proposal) and the American Families Plan (his “human” infrastructure piece), which currently total about $4 trillion.