The voting rights effort is alive! Sort of.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Thursday morning in a letter to members that the chamber will vote on the Freedom to Vote Act next week, after he files cloture to set it in motion on Monday. That sets up a vote to overcome a Republican filibuster on Wednesday. The Freedom to Vote Act is the newest iteration of the For the People Act, modified to get Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on board.
Since its introduction in mid-September, the bill’s cosponsors have been giving Manchin time to court Republicans. The West Virginia Democrat maintains, without any proof, that there are 10 Republicans to be won over who will help Democrats defeat the filibuster.
Some of the cosponsors have been accompanying Manchin on these liaisons, though without much success.
The group met last Thursday.
“We have finally gotten some proposals from the Republicans,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) told TPM an hour after the meeting. “We think they’re inadequate, but we think we ought to debate them.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), another cosponsor, had the same idea. He told TPM last week that he wants to bring the GOP proposals to the floor for debate after recess, not least to garner the still-lacking Republican support.
“There’s about five or six,” he said of potentially cooperative Republicans. “Look, I think the opportunity with debate is to get more support.”
Democrats’ voting rights push has stalled out in the face of the filibuster. Despite Manchin’s insistence, there has been next to no Republican support for Democratic proposals. Only Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has shown interest in any of the bills, expressing openness to the John Lewis Voting Act.
Increasingly desperate anti-filibuster advocates have been lobbying President Joe Biden to get more involved, identifying him as the last remaining untapped resource. Many have grown frustrated by what they see as a very halfhearted focus on the issue, compared to his verve in selling and passing his infrastructure bills.
He’s also one of the last remaining factors, they theorize, that could sway Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to allow reform to the Senate rule. Earlier gambits, like holding a series of blocked votes to convince the two that Republican support for voting protections is nonexistent, have not moved the needle.
The sputtering effort has continued in the background, while the bipartisan and reconciliation infrastructure bills suck up all the oxygen in the Senate. The more optimistic senators hope that they can do both — especially as new congressional maps are coming out, absent the anti-gerrymandering provisions the legislation contains.
“We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Tester said.