Democrats in the U.S. Senate this week will try to advance legislation setting new national election standards, seeking to counter voting-rights rollbacks that Republican legislatures are pursuing across the country.
Senate Democrats spent the weekend trying to finalize a bill that could win the support of all 50 Democrats and independents in the 100-member chamber, even as Republicans showed no signs of joining an effort that would expand voting by mail and change the way congressional districts are drawn in an effort to prevent them from being designed along partisan lines.
If the Democrats’ effort sputters this week and no further negotiations succeed, it could allow new, restrictive voting rules in some Republican-led states to stand, unless they are struck down in court challenges.
But it also could embolden Democrats to try to scrap or modify the Senate’s long-standing “filibuster” rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation. Such a move could leave Republicans powerless if the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents stick together, given that Vice President Kamala Harris, also a Democrat, has the power to break 50-50 ties.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a procedural vote for Tuesday to let the Senate begin debating an election reform bill.
“We are working to come up with an agreement to compromise with Joe Manchin,” Schumer told reporters on Sunday.
Manchin, a moderate Democratic senator, opposes a broader bill passed by the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives in March, and offered his own election reform ideas last week.
But with Senate Republicans poised to withhold their support, Schumer is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to begin debate on a bill.
The Democratic-led push for federal voting rights legislation comes as Republican legislatures in politically pivotal states such as Georgia, Florida and Iowa passed sweeping voting restrictions following former President Donald Trump’s defeat last November and his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.