Chuck Schumer Just Announced a Major Potential Vote on the Future of the Filibuster

Voting rights protections are on the line, but Manchin and Sinema once again stand in the way.

Rod Lamkey/CNP/ZUMA

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In a letter released on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the Senate would vote to amend the filibuster by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 17, if and when the GOP stands in the way of major voting rights legislation.

Schumer made his announcement three days before the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot. In his letter, Schumer drew comparisons between the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol and Republican officials who have seized on Trump’s election lies to enact anti-democratic legislation across the country. 

Without a change to the filibuster, it will be virtually impossible for Democrats to pass the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which together would protect early voting, establish Election Day as a public holiday, expand mail-in voting, and generally help to safeguard the right to vote. Democrats view the twin bills as necessary to curtail the anti-democratic actions taken by Republican state legislatures to gerrymander congressional maps and suppress the vote of Democrat-leaning minorities.

But in order to reform the filibuster, Democrats will have to convince two notorious buzzkills: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

Sinema already seems like a hard no. In mid-December, she publicly stated that she opposes filibuster reform to protect the right to vote. Manchin, who co-wrote the Freedom to Vote Act, has made it clear that he won’t consider abolishing the filibuster under any circumstances, but he’s dropped some enigmatic hints that he might support less radical changes to the rules. Democrats will most likely need both of them on board for any rules change, or one of them and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the only Republican to vote for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act

As a result, Democrats are hoping to use the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riot to pressure Manchin and Sinema. However, it’s unclear how effective such a lobbying campaign will be. Only a few weeks ago, Manchin withstood fierce criticism from the party before going on to single-handedly tank Biden’s entire domestic agenda. Simply put, the odds aren’t high.

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