Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is preparing to bring the For the People Act to the floor Tuesday, the first push of the legislation that will almost certainly run straight into the filibuster buzzsaw.
“Tomorrow, the Senate will also take a crucial vote on whether to start debate on major voting rights legislation,” Schumer said Monday afternoon from the Senate floor. “I want to say that again — tomorrow the Senate will take a vote on whether to start debate on legislation to protect Americans’ voting rights. It’s not a vote on any particular policy.”
Those remarks were more in service to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) than anyone else.
After Manchin released his list of voting proposals last week, Democrats promised to work through the weekend to try to find a compromise he’ll support. Those changes will not be part of tomorrow’s vote: Schumer filed fresh legislation with language identical to the proposed bill marked up by the Senate Rules Committee earlier this spring, to prepare it for possible amendments down the line.
None of those future amendments, including those put forth by Manchin, will see any floor action tomorrow, or as long as the legislative filibuster persists. Tuesday’s vote is a decision on invoking cloture, where the filibuster requires 60 votes to just move to debate on the bill. Scrounging up 10 Republican votes to even advance the bill to debate seems unlikely, given the zero Republicans publicly supporting the bill and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) aggressive whipping against it.
Democrats still have a goal for Tuesday’s vote despite the fact that it will, barring some spectacular divine intervention, fall short of the 60 votes needed. If Manchin votes to invoke cloture, a yes vote on continuing to debate the bill (though not yet to pass it), it at least provides Democrats with a path forward. They’ll continue to negotiate with Manchin to get him on board with the legislation, and hope that at some point, his own frustration with GOP obstruction rises to the level that he’ll vote to reform the filibuster so it allows the voting rights legislation to pass.
Schumer has previously pointed to August as the deadline for the bill, giving Democrats some wiggle room.
A unified Democratic front would also strengthen the argument against the filibuster — if Democrats can’t even muster a 50th vote from within the party, it’s not just the filibuster holding them back from passing the bill.
So as usual, all eyes will be on Manchin to see if there’s a glimmer of hope for the For the People Act’s future. And even then, if Democrats get what they want and end the day with 50 votes in favor of proceeding to debate, it’s just one step on the journey to convince the recalcitrant senator to budge on the filibuster.
Former President Barack Obama joined the effort on Monday, participating in a press call with former Attorney General Eric Holder to bemoan the Republicans’ coming obstruction.
“In the aftermath of an insurrection with our democracy on the line, many of these same Republican senators are going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election,” Obama said. “They’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and offer solutions on the floor of the Senate — they don’t even want to talk about voting.”
“That’s not acceptable,” he added.