Democrats may have already reached the periphery of their power in Washington.
This is despite the control of the House, the Senate and the White House.
This phenomenon was best exposed on Tuesday night when Democrats failed to call a single Republican to vote to spark debate on a voting rights bill.
It was not a direct, high / low vote on the measure. It was just a matter of getting into the debate on the bill. The measure needs 60 years to start the debate. He was expected to fail, and he did. This prevented even the examination of the measure on the ground.
The vote revealed the limits of the Democratic majority in a divided Senate. And, he played it to the letter.
Fifty Democrats voted to start the debate. Fifty Republicans opposed it, effectively obstructing the legislation.
But that’s well below what Democrats needed.
And that was it.
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Mid-afternoon Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., rushed to the microphones in the Ohio Clock Hall just outside the Senate Chamber with a last minute announcement.
Schumer had negotiated with Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., over the bill. Manchin has developed his own voting rights plan. But Manchin had agreed to vote yes to proceed with voting rights legislation.
News alerts instantly lit the phones of Democratic journalists and activists across Washington. Manchin would allow the bill to vote.
But Schumer’s bickering over Manchin’s vote wasn’t exactly a breakthrough in Yalta.
it didn’t change anything.
Manchin had taken a lot of heat from the left because he was not a team player. He did not support the Democratic agenda. In fact, the day after the vote, the Poor’s Campaign organized a rally on Capitol Hill titled “Moral March on Manchin and McConnell”.
Yet Manchin had set to work and devised a compromise plan to which Schumer had adhered. He was even blessed by Stacey Abrams. In fact, part of Schumer’s pact with McConnell was that if the Senate never crossed the procedural hurdle to begin debate on the bill, Schumer would delete the basic text of the original plan and replace it with Manchin’s proposal. In other words, it was Manchin’s bill.
But, it was never going to go this far under the current circumstances, as Democrats couldn’t avoid Republican filibuster.
Understandably, Democrats want to arm this roll-call vote against Republicans. With the GOP’s unanimous opposition blocking debate on the bill, Democrats can roll out this vote as a wedge midway through 2022. Democrats hope to show their constituents that Republicans have stopped voting rights reform . Democrats will then encourage their base to go to the polls based on the results on this issue.
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Manchin also got a lot of what he wanted. He developed a compromise. But, for a bill that has gone nowhere. So maybe Manchin didn’t shed a lot of skin in the process. Manchin reaps the benefits of looking like a team player, not an obstructionist. Additionally, Schumer keeps his caucus together and has pronounced all 50 members in favor of the procedural vote.
Yet another internal battle is brewing as Liberal Democrats in the House increasingly step up pressure on President Biden for failing to pass the bill.
“He’s not absent,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman, DN.Y., said of the president’s efforts on voting rights. “But he has to be a lot more vocal and a lot more up front.” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki defended the president when asked about Bowman’s criticisms.
“These words are a fight against the wrong opponent,” Psaki said.
In other words, Manchin’s vote and compromise shields the president from internal criticism from his left flank. Schumer and company delivered the 50 Democratic votes. There’s not much more the president can do unless someone can cajole 10 Republicans into getting closer.
And, there is a reason the President deployed Vice President Kamala Harris to the Senate podium. From there, Harris would preside over debate on the motion to proceed to the bill and the failed vote that followed. The choreography sent a message to the left that the administration is doing all it can about voting rights.
Harris voted to sever two ties earlier today to help confirm Kiran Ahuja as director of the Office of Personnel Management. But Harris was not allowed to vote to break the tie on the motion to vote on the bill because 60 votes were needed to crush the filibuster.
“The president and I are very clear. We support S.1,” Harris said during a rally with reporters just after the vote. “The fight is not over.”
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Called Tuesday’s vote the “first round” for the bill. But when pressed by reporters for what was the “second round,” Schumer really didn’t come up with a way forward. Schumer proposed to have more discussions and not to “put the cart before the horse”.
This brings us back to one key: the future of filibuster.
If the 50 Democrats can stick together, they could lower the threshold to change the filibuster – with a decisive vote from Vice President Harris. But Manchin opposes it. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, made it clear that she did not want to kill the filibuster, writing an op-ed in The Washington Post.
So Tuesday’s vote did not move the bill forward. But it brought the Senate back to the debate on the future of filibuster. Groups working to change the filibuster are now stepping up their efforts.
“There are a lot of members who support the (voting) bill, who have supported filibuster over the years and now realize that this is abuse,” Eli Zupnick said. , former assistant to Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash. Zupnick says these members “are now more open to reform than ever.”
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Changing the filibuster provisions probably requires the “nuclear option”. This is where a party unilaterally changes the filibuster provisions, lowering the bar to end a given obstruction. The Democrats triggered the first nuclear option in 2013. They lowered the threshold to overcome the 60 to 51 blockage for most executive candidates with the initial nuclear option. Senate Republicans followed suit with a nuclear option for Supreme Court candidates in 2017.
The only thing that remains is the 60 vote threshold to obstruct the legislation.
Democrats do not yet have the votes for a nuclear strike against filibuster. But Tuesday’s vote gave them something they needed in their arsenal to change the filibuster: a failed procedural vote. A failed procedural vote is what Democrats and Republicans both used when they destroyed parts of the filibuster in 2013 and 2017. And the failure of the closing vote on Tuesday attributes Democrats to parliamentary fissile material for a nuclear strike against their own obstruction.