PIN THE TAIL ON THE ELEPHANT
In a couple of weeks, Senator Schumer will ask the Senate to vote to carve out an exception to the filibuster rule, allowing voting rights legislation to reach the floor of the Senate by a simple majority vote. The change in the filibuster rule itself only requires a majority vote.
As usual, the political gurus focus on Senators Manchin and Sinema:
For the strategy to succeed, however, Schumer will need buy-in from two fellow Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — who have voiced skepticism or opposition to changing Senate procedures in a way that would be needed to push voting rights priorities across the finish line.
Manchin and Sinema exercise their influence only when it is assumed that in a 50–50 Senate, all Republicans will vote as a bloc.
However, it is important to remember that less than a year ago, at the second Trump impeachment trial, seven Republican senators joined the entire Democratic caucus in voting for conviction:
- Richard Burr of North Carolina
- Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
- Susan Collins of Maine
- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
- Mitt Romney of Utah
- Ben Sasse of Nebraska
- Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
All of these senators are still active and will participate in the upcoming votes on the filibuster. Remember, too, that the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a bipartisan effort, with 30 Republicans joining 47 Democrats to pass the bill. Different times to be sure, but federal legislation to correct voting abuses by state legislatures is as much a part of the Republican DNA as it is the Democrats’.
If you’re a constituent of any of these senators and you can find the time, please consider writing to them to remind them of their own party’s history — and their personal courage less than a year ago.
I wrote this today to my Senator, Toomey (you can do better):
A year ago, you and six other Republican senators had the courage to vote for the conviction of Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial. Since then, there have been very few indications that the Republican party is anything but Trump’s plaything. I believe strongly in the two-party system, and in free and fair elections. Trump’s Big Lie is being used to “justify” egregiously biased voting restrictions in dozens of states. This is a throwback to the kinds of restrictive voting that preceded the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. These laws are even more toxic, perhaps, by wresting final control of election outcomes from the voters and placing it in the hands of partisans.
When we were growing up, we looked at the sham elections in the Soviet Union and took pride in the political back-and-forth our country allowed. Letting state legislatures override the choices of voters will turn the GOP into a carbon-copy of the Politburo.
In the next couple of weeks, Senator Schumer will bring to the Senate floor a motion to suspend the filibuster on the narrow issue of voting rights. I know that you are a partisan, and that is fine with me. Free debate of the issues is our birthright. But in your impeachment vote, you demonstrated that you knew when an intolerable line had been crossed, and you acted honorably and with courage.
In this, your final year in the Senate, I respectfully urge you to step up to the moment and allow voting rights legislation to reach the Senate floor by supporting the voting rights filibuster carve-out.
I know that waiting for some of these senators to display a conscience can be worse than frustrating. But if only one or two can reignite their commitment to democracy, then the Manchin-Sinema stranglehold will be broken.
Also, it is important to stop focusing on Democratic infighting. It’s not great that Manchin and Sinema are blocking parts of the progressive agenda, but this only diverts attention from 50 GOP senators who are willing to do nothing while democracy burns.