A push by Democrats to enact the most expansive voting rights legislation in generations is set to collapse in the Senate on Tuesday, when Republicans are expected to use a filibuster to block a measure that President Biden and his allies in Congress have called a vital step to protect democracy.
Despite solid Republican opposition, Democrats plan to bring the voting rights fight to a head on the Senate floor, by calling a test vote to try to advance the broad federal elections overhaul, known as the For the People Act. As Republican-led states rush to enact restrictive new voting laws, Democrats have presented the legislation as the party’s best chance to undo them, expand ballot access from coast to coast and limit the effect of special interests on the political process.
“We can argue what should be done to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy, but don’t you think we should be able to debate the issue?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Monday in a last-ditch appeal to Republicans to let the debate proceed.
But in the hours before the vote, Democrats conceded they were facing defeat — at least for now. Even if they succeeded in securing the votes of all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus, party leaders were expected to fall well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and begin debating the bill.
Instead, they focused on Monday on rallying the party around a more limited alternative proposed by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who had been the only Democratic holdout on the voting rights measure. Both the White House and former President Barack Obama said his suggestions would address many of the most urgent issues. President Biden and Mr. Manchin also spoke directly about the need to find a legislative solution, according to an official familiar with their conversation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Leaders hope that, given the support for his proposal, Mr. Manchin will vote with the rest of the Senate’s Democrats and Democratic-aligned independents to allow the debate to proceed, allowing his party to present a unified front on the bill.
Flashback to my March 16 WaPo piece: H.R. 1 can’t pass the Senate. But here are some voting reforms that could.