The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, October 21, 2021 1:00 am

Senate GOP again blocks elections legislation

But Democrats see slight shift to end filibuster

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – For the third time this year, Senate Democrats on Wednesday tried to pass sweeping elections legislation that they tout as a powerful counterweight to new voting restrictions sweeping conservative-controlled states.

Once again, Republicans blocked them.

But amid the ongoing stalemate, there are signs that Democrats are making headway in their effort to create consensus around changing Senate procedural rules, a key step that could allow them to muscle transformative legislation through the narrowly divided chamber.

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, recently eased his longstanding opposition to changing the filibuster rules, which create a 60-vote threshold for most legislation to pass.

“I've concluded that democracy itself is more important than any Senate rule,” said King, who acknowledged that weakening the filibuster would likely prove to be a “double-edged sword” under a Republican majority.

Democrats still face long odds of passing their bill, now known as the Freedom to Vote Act, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., excoriated Wednesday as a federal “election takeover scheme.” But the softening of King's stance on the filibuster amounts to progress, if incremental, for Senate Democrats as they look to convince others in their caucus to support a rule change.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invoked the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, hailing the Northern senators serving at that time for “going it alone” when confronted by “minority obstruction.”

“Members of this body now face a choice,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “They can follow in the footsteps of our patriotic predecessors in this chamber. Or they can sit by as the fabric of our democracy unravels before our very eyes.”

The Democrats' voting bill was first introduced in March in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

It quickly passed the House at a time when Republican-controlled legislatures were advancing restrictions in the name of election security.

Former President Donald's Trump's claims of election fraud were widely rejected in the courts, by state officials who certified the results and by his own attorney general.

But initial optimism that the measure would swiftly pass the Senate dissipated after several members of the Democratic caucus, including King, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, among others, made clear their reluctance to change the filibuster rules.

Manchin, who has said that any election overhaul needs bipartisan support, also sought changes to the voting bill to make it more palatable to Republicans.

As written, the current “compromise” version of the bill would establish national rules for running elections, limit partisanship in the drawing of congressional districts and force the disclosure of many anonymous donors who spend big to influence elections.

Other provisions are aimed at alleviating concerns from local elections officials, who worried that that original bill would have been too difficult to implement. And some new additions are aimed at insulating nonpartisan election officials, who may be subject to greater partisan pressure under some of the new state laws.


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