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Schumer vows to turn up heat on GOP on voting rights, risks exposing moderate Dems on filibuster

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is forcing votes on Democrats’ election reform proposals and the Senate filibuster this week in a move to draw a line between Democrats and Republicans on voting rights – but one that will also shine a spotlight on Democrats’ intraparty divisions. “We will be postponing recess so the Senate can vote on voting rights. We will return on Tuesday to take up the House-passed message containing voting rights legislation,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday. “Members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, particularly on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as this one. And we will proceed.””And if Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote — as we expect them to — the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules — as has been done many times before — to allow for passage of voting rights legislation,” Schumer added.The problem is that Schumer doesn’t have the votes to do that. 
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after final votes going into the Memorial Day recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 28, 2021. Schumer is set to force a vote on an election legislation exception to the legislative filibuster this week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
SINEMA DOUBLES DOWN ON FILIBUSTER SUPPORT, DEALING LIKELY FATAL BLOW TO DEMS’ ELECTION BILLSSens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said in no uncertain terms last week they will oppose any party-line effort to change the filibuster, even if just for election legislation. Sinema did so in a dramatic floor speech Thursday that preempted a visit President Biden made to the Capitol to lobby Democrats on that very issue. Congressional leaders don’t like to go to the floor unless they know they have the votes to pass something. But a growing drumbeat for action from activists created an environment in which top Democrats seem to feel they have to act or risk losing their base for the midterms. And even Schumer himself appears to be losing patience with the members of his party who are holding out on the filibuster.”How can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?” Schumer said Friday. “We will confront this sobering question and every member will go on record.”It’s not just Manchin and Sinema who are facing pressure with this week’s vote. In fact, they’ve been so vocal in favor of the filibuster that they may be looking forward to it. 
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., delivers remarks on the Senate floor in support of the legislative filibuster, on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. 
WHY SENATE DEMOCRATS WHO SIGNED SUSAN COLLINS’ PRO-FILIBUSTER LETTER IN 2017 WANT TO GET RID OF IT NOWBut other moderate Democratic senators, like Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who is up for reelection this year, haven’t taken a firm stance on the filibuster. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said last week she expects backlash against people who don’t back pushing Democrats’ election bills through Congress. “Who should be afraid are those who won’t stand up for voting rights. So we’re sending a clarion call, and you can print this – shame on you for not doing it,” she said. “So it’s not what’s going to happen to us, it’s what’s going to happen to them.”And Republicans are salivating over the opportunity to craft campaign ads against other Democrats, like Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who made statements that they’re for some form of filibuster changes but will now have to say so in a Senate roll call vote.”I think we’ll send him a gift basket or something,” National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokesman Chris Hartline told Fox News last month of the possibility that Schumer could force vulnerable members of his party to vote on the filibuster.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., listens during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, July 27, 2021. 
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)But the doomed-to-fail vote is no longer something Senate Democrats can dodge after a year of progressives dominating the party agenda and ratcheting up pressure for party leaders to ditch the Senate custom. “Preserving the filibuster is not worth letting millions of people in this country go hungry, sleep in their cars, or struggle to afford baby formula,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in February of last year, shortly after Democrats took control of the Senate. She and other progressives kept ratcheting up the pressure on Schumer to do something on the filibuster through press conferences, media appearances and public statements over the course of a year.BLACK CAUCUS CALLS ON SENATE TO DITCH FILIBUSTER, PASS ELECTIONS BILLS IMMEDIATELY: ‘IT’S THE URGENCY OF NOW’Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., led calls to get rid of the filibuster to pack the Supreme Court last summer after disappointing rulings for Democrats. 
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks during a rally for immigration provisions to be included in the Build Back Better Act outside the U.S. Capitol, Dec. 7, 2021 in Washington. Ocasio-Cortez and fellow progressives drove Democratic politics in the last year, including by bringing potential changes to the legislative filibuster to the forefront.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)”We must abolish the filibuster and pass the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” he said on July 1. “And we must expand the Supreme Court.” When Texas’ new abortion law was in the news, the Congressional Progressive Caucus tweeted on Oct. 8 that “the Senate should abolish the filibuster and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.” And with Democrats’ elections bills back in the news this month, the filibuster is again in progressives’ crosshairs. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”This is of existential importance,” Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., said on MSNBC this month about getting rid of the filibuster. “I have got to remain optimistic that Manchin and Sinema, who as of today are the only Democrats in the Senate standing in the way of saving our ailing democracy, are going to have a religious experience and finally do the right thing.” Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report. 

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