Please pause for a moment and consider just how much political capital President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are spending right now on voting rights and scrapping the filibuster. Biden went to Atlanta on Tuesday to make a major speech on this, and now he’s coming to Capitol Hill today to lobby Democratic senators during a closed-door party meeting.
Schumer’s office has been a bit like Grand Central Station at rush hour. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have been cycling in and out of there – and other Capitol meeting spots – multiple times each day. The two moderate Democrats are listening to appeals from colleagues about why they should scrap the 60-vote threshold to cut off debate or allow a carveout for voting rights. Manchinema, however, have remained consistent: it won’t happen.
Let’s leave aside for a second the substance of the voting rights bill. We all understand that it’s unlikely to pass, right? And there are plenty of Senate Democrats – and many on the House side too – that wonder why the White House is pressing so hard on this. And why is Schumer forcing vulnerable lawmakers to do away with the filibuster? The vast majority of Democratic senators are ready to scrap the 60-vote threshold – if they can win. They can’t right now. And worse than that, Senate Democrats don’t have a graceful way out this political jam. It’s a bit reminiscent of when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wouldn’t lift the debt limit earlier this year. McConnell’s position was unsustainable and in the end, he had no choice left but to fold.