Sinema pops the trial balloon of Democrats’ filibuster over voting rights

Sinema continues to support the Freedom to Vote Act, which was negotiated with Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), as well as the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act, even though it raises questions on how to pass these bills in a uniform manner. Senate divided. Democratic senators have mostly focused on lobbying Manchin to try to convince him to pass majority-majority election legislation, but Sinema isn’t there yet either.

“Senema Sinema has asked those who want to weaken or eliminate the filibuster to pass suffrage legislation she supports if it’s good for our country,” her spokesman John LaBombard said. He warned that the legislation could be “repealed in a few years and replaced by a national voter ID law, national restrictions on voting by mail or other voting restrictions currently in place in some states extended to the ‘national scale’.

Manchin and Sinema both attended a Wednesday afternoon meeting with the senses. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine), centrists who advocate a workaround to the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. Democrats also discussed how to pass electoral reform bills at a party lunch on Tuesday, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Manchin, King, Kaine and Tester on Wednesday. morning.

Importantly, the Democrats are no longer trying to completely remove the filibuster given Manchin and Sinema’s opposition to this step. Instead, they are looking to an attempt to sway the duo to support a rule change that could allow legislation limiting gerrymandering and reinstating the Voting Rights Act to escape the 60-vote requirement. .

The main options that Manchin and Sinema’s colleagues hope to influence them on are installing verbal obstruction, which would force the minority to hold their ground and permanently secure at least 41 votes to block the legislation, or creating a filibuster exception specific to the issue of elections and voting.

Either way, Democrats should use the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate rules on simple majority voting, which Manchin and Sinema have generally opposed. After Wednesday afternoon’s meeting, Manchin said the question was “difficult…because what happens comes here. You have to be very careful what you’re doing.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). lamented the Senate’s filibuster exemption to raise the debt ceiling, saying he wondered whether to support the proposal as the vote on the legislation stalled. Warnock is a leading advocate for a voting rights showdown this month, rather than launching reforms until January or later.

“Our democracy is clearly in jeopardy. The lights are flashing and we’re irresponsible if we don’t respond,” Warnock said.

And Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) has come out in favor of changing the filibuster to pass election legislation, saying “if we can change the process on the debt ceiling, surely we can.” do the same to protect our democracy. ”

Sinema’s spokeswoman said she “believes that the right to vote and faith in our electoral process are essential to the health of our democracy.” And while she’s open to discussing Senate rules, she still wants to hear a fuller debate about the Senate floor.

“It is time for the Senate to publicly debate its rules, including the filibuster, so that senators and all Americans can hear and fully consider these ideas, concerns and consequences,” LaBombard said. “If there are any proposals to make the Senate work better for ordinary Americans without risking repeated drastic shifts in federal policy, Senator Sinema is eager to hear such ideas and — as always — is ready to engage. good faith discussions with colleagues.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.