With chances for passage of the Build Back Better Act dimming by the day, the Biden administration and prominent Democrats have made a quick pivot – insisting that now is the moment to pass voting rights protection through Congress.
“There’s nothing domestically more important” than voting rights, President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. (The Washington Post reported Thursday that Biden had privately urged Democratic senators to find a way to get something done on voting rights.)
“There is a universal view in our caucus that we need to pass legislation to protect our democracy,” added Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The refocus on voting rights led some to think that a breakthrough had been achieved, that Democratic senators who had previously voiced unwillingness to change filibuster rules had softened.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema shut that door: “Senator Sinema continues to support the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, to protect the country from repeated radical reversals in federal policy which would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions, and further erode Americans’ confidence in our government,” the statement read.
And that is, well, that. Democrats control 50 seats in the Senate. They need every single one of those votes if they want to change Senate rules like, say, the filibuster. Without Sinema, they don’t have the votes. (West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has also repeatedly said he does not favor removing the legislative filibuster.)
Until that changes, the major voting rights proposals that Democrats have been pushing this year will not happen.
Sensing that reality, Schumer said Thursday that the Senate would pass a voting rights measure “in time for the 2022 elections.”
But even that promise seems likely to be broken unless Schumer (or Biden) can find a way to get Manchin and Sinema to reconsider their much-stated opposition to changing the filibuster rules.
The Point: Unless and until Manchin and Sinema shift their positions, talk of any major voting rights measure is just that – talk.