The Senate Prepares a Tense Debate on the Right to Vote
The leader of the Democratic majority in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, laid the foundations this Wednesday for a debate in the Upper House on the right to vote in the country, although it will be difficult for him to overcome the fierce opposition Republican to electoral reform.
A day after President Joe Biden urged his party to “protect democracy” in the face of growing voting restrictions approved at the state level, Democrats began to move chips on the issue in the Senate.
In a letter to colleagues, Schumer announced that he has found a way around the blockade that Republicans have so far imposed on any debate on the Senate floor on two bills designed to strengthen voting rights nationwide.
“The Senate will finally debate voting rights legislation, and then each senator will have to decide whether to pass that legislation to protect our democracy,” the Democratic leader wrote, according to the letter obtained by various outlets.
To get around the 60-vote requirement needed to start debate on a measure, the Democratic-majority lower house will this week amend a different bill, which has to do with NASA, to add the text of one of the electoral reform proposals.
By using this mechanism, the Democrats – who control 50 seats in the Senate – will only need a simple majority of 51 votes to start the debate on the issue, although to approve it they would need the support of 60 senators, something that Schumer himself acknowledged that “it’s not going to happen.”
The alternative, backed by Biden, is to change the rules of the Senate to get the electoral reform approved by a simple majority, with the votes of Democratic senators and the tiebreaker of Vice President Kamala Harris, who presides over the chamber.
According to Schumer, the debate on electoral reform could be followed by an attempt to change those rules, although this will require absolute unity in the Democratic ranks, and at least two senators have expressed doubts about it.
To advance that goal, Biden will meet this Thursday afternoon with Democratic senators to try to convince them that it is “urgent” to change the rules of the Senate to approve electoral reform, according to the White House.
The reason for this urgency is that, according to the Democrats, the Republican Party is preparing the ground at the state level to make it difficult to vote in the next electoral cycles and, thus, potentially reverse a result that does not favor them in the legislative elections of this year and the 2024 presidential elections.
Biden’s request to change the rules of the Senate has irritated the Republican leader in that chamber, Mitch McConnell, who accused him in a speech on Wednesday of behaving “unpresidential” and of not being “up to his position”.