Wednesday night’s Senate vote on federal voting rights was canceled by Democrats after they failed to unite their caucus around a plan to amend the filibuster rule. This would have allowed the Democrats to bypass the opposition from the GOP.
If a simple majority vote had been allowed to move the bill forward, its passage would have undoubtedly been successful. Republicans, however, blocked the voting rights legislation using the filibuster. This allows 40 senators the ability to block any piece or legislation they disagree with.
The legislation was opposed by all 50 members of Senate Republican Caucus. At least 10 GOP senators had to vote in favor of cloture to allow the bill pass the filibuster.
After the voting rights legislation failed to pass, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) moved to change the rules of the filibuster, proposing that it be replaced with a “talking filibuster” that would have required lawmakers to speak non-stop on the Senate floor in order for it to be sustained. After Sens. The proposal was voted down by Joe Manchin (D–West Virginia) as well as Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona).
In a statement after her vote, Sinema claimed that any changes to the filibuster rule — including a modest change like returning to the “talking filibuster” — would “deepen our divisions and risk repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty and further eroding confidence in our government.”
The senators were accused of prioritizing “political unity” over voting rights.
“Reverting to Jim Crow-like restrictions is not acceptable in 2022,” Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) wrote on Twitter.
“Let’s not lose sight of the issue at hand: This is about ordinary Americans having to jump burdensome hurdles to cast their votes,” he added.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D.Massachusetts), pledged that she and her congressional counterparts would continue fighting to defend the right of all Americans to vote.
“Tonight, 52 Senators chose to save the Jim Crow filibuster rather than save our democracy,” Pressley said. “We won’t stop fighting to defend voting rights and keep power in the hands of the people.”
Before Wednesday’s votes, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D. South Carolina), the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, led House members of Congressional Black Caucus to Senate chambers to show the need for voting rights legislation.
Today, @TheBlackCaucus marched to the entry of the Senate floor to call upon them to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and send this critical legislation to the President’s desk.
The time is now. pic.twitter.com/5HHNSx0IiS
— James E. Clyburn (@WhipClyburn) January 19, 2022
“We want the Senate to act today in a favorable way, but if they don’t, we ain’t giving up. I am too young to give up,” said Clyburn, who is 81 years old.
Clyburn, who was a civil rights and voting rights activist before becoming a lawmaker, reiterated his belief that the fight must go on beyond last night’s failed votes.
“Although the Senate’s inaction is disappointing, this is not the end,” he wrote on social media. “Those of us who are committed to our nation’s pursuit of a more perfect Union will continue to heed John Lewis’ admonition to ‘stand up, speak out and get in the way’ to get voter protections signed into law.”
The majority of Americans support the passage voting rights protections, even though it means changing filibuster rules. A Data for Progress poll published this monthThe poll found that 53 per cent of likely voters would approve of the elimination of the filibuster, if it meant passing Freedom Voting Rights Advancement Act or John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Only 35 percent said they would not support such an action.
“Protecting the right to vote is much more important to the majority of likely voters than preserving the senate filibuster rule,” said Ethan Winter, political analyst for Data for Progress, in a message to Truthout. “It’s a bit of political cliche, but I do think that people want a government that they can see working. The legislative filibuster pretty clearly impedes this.”
“Those that defend the filibuster often talk about how it’s needed to somehow protect the Senate,” Winter went on. “I would just point out that the approval rating of congress is in the 20s.”