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The Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday forcefully called on Senate Democrats to ditch the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass their two major elections bills along party lines, arguing that voters can’t wait any longer as federal courts chip away at provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“We know that it’s not gonna be the courts that are going to protect our rights right now. It’s gonna have to be us in the Congress,” Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, a former elections lawyer, said. “We cannot let a Senate rule that is based and was used almost exclusively to prevent civil rights, prevent us from rising to this moment.”
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., launched a broadside at Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who was the main author of one of the bills Democrats are trying to pass. He said that Manchin, who is a vocal supporter of the Senate filibuster, “seemed to be supporting a filibuster of his own bill. That to us is very concerning.”
Clyburn said that the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave freed slaves the right to vote, “passed on a straight party-line vote. So we take exception, grave exception, when anybody tells us legislation cannot have credibility unless it is bipartisan.”
Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., meanwhile, said it’s a moral imperative for the Senate to get rid of the filibuster and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act over GOP objections.
“To our colleagues in the Senate, we simply say at the eyes of the world upon you. The world is watching. The country is watching. And the Congressional Black Caucus is watching. We hope you will do the right thing,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., promised earlier this month that if the Senate cannot pass either of those bills before Jan. 17, which is Martin Luther King Jr., Day, then the Senate will “debate and consider changes to Senate rules” regarding the filibuster.
Schumer hasn’t come up with a specific plan yet exactly what that rules change may look like. One possibility is a carve-out simply for election-related bills, which could allow reluctant members to reduce the threshold to pass such bills in the Senate from 60 to 51 while maintaining the filibuster for other legislation.
But Manchin said he does not like that plan because “anytime there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey.” And Democrats will need Manchin’s support to make any filibuster change because they only have 50 senators.
Schumer said Wednesday he’s working with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., another moderate filibuster supporter, on how Democrats could pass their bills. But they are “Not there yet,” Schumer said.
Republicans say they’re opposed to the two Democratic bills because they amount to a federal takeover of elections when there is no real threat to voting rights. They argue the state-level elections bills Republicans passed last year do not harm voting rights the way Democrats say they do.
If Democrats do indeed kill the filibuster, Republicans are threatening to essentially shut down the Senate. And they’re also reminding Democrats that majorities often change, meaning one day it could be the GOP in power with the ability to pass Senate bills on party lines.
But Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said she is not concerned about that – she wants elections bills passed now.
“If you expected me to count on what my racist colleagues and folks on the other side have been doing, it doesn’t matter if there’s a filibuster or not. They’re going to do what they’re gonna do,” she said. “Look at Jan. 6 and what happened. Look at some of the laws that they’re putting in place. So for us, it’s the urgency of now… I’ll worry about two years when I get to two years.”
Fox News’ Caroline McKee and Kelly Phares contributed to this report.