Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) started the new year with a blunt attack on Republicans on Jan. 3, claiming the GOP’s opposition to Democrats’ proposed voting rights reforms is tied to “domestic extremists” who tried to “destroy our Republic” in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach.
“Domestic violent extremists sought to inflict chaos and violence. Fueled by conspiracy and the ravings of a vengeful former President, they sought to destroy our Republic,” Schumer told his Senate Democratic colleagues in a Jan. 3 Dear Colleague letter.
“As we all are witnessing, the attacks on our democracy have not ceased. In fact, they have only accelerated. Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions.”
“Make no mistake about it: This week Senate Democrats will make clear that what happened on January 6th and the one-sided, partisan actions being taken by Republican-led state legislatures across the country are directly linked, and we can and must take strong action to stop this antidemocratic march. … Senate Democrats will continue to make the case for passing voting rights legislation to counter the Republican voter suppression and election nullification laws with the same anti-democratic motives born out of the Big Lie,” he said.
Schumer was referring to former President Donald Trump’s repeated claims since November 2020 that the election was stolen and that President Joe Biden is therefore not the legitimate chief executive.
Numerous state legislatures, notably including Texas and Georgia, have since the 2020 election passed laws designed to make casting verifiable ballots easier while making voter fraud more difficult.
Measures such as strengthening voter identification requirements are highly popular with the public, with recent surveys by Rasmussen, Monmouth, Pew, and AP-NORC finding 72 to 80 percent support for requiring photo IDs to vote.
Republicans argue that reforms sought by congressional Democrats such as the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act severely limit or eliminate entirely the use of photo IDs and require that all proposed changes to state election laws have prior Department of Justice (DOJ) approval.
The biggest roadblock to Senate approval of both reform proposals is the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster and move to a final vote on a proposal, which effectively means that, currently, all 50 of the Senate’s Democrats plus 10 of the chamber’s 50 Republicans must vote in favor.
Senate Republicans have been unanimously opposed to consideration of the bills and succeeded in blocking them on three occasions in 2021. As a result, Schumer also promised on Jan. 3 to seek a rule change to allow a simple majority vote to end a filibuster.
“Given the urgency of the situation and imminence of the votes, we as Senate Democrats must urge the public in a variety of different ways to impress upon their senators the importance of acting and reforming the Senate rules, if that becomes a perquisite for action to save our democracy,” Schumer said in the letter.
A vote on the rules change reportedly could come before Jan. 17.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have publicly questioned the wisdom of ending the filibuster, so Schumer may not be able to count on solid Democratic support for the change.
Brian Darling, a Republican Hill strategist and former general counsel to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), told The Epoch Times there’s also a political risk for Democrats in moving against the filibuster in order to clear the way for voting reforms.
“If the progressive Democrats are successful in bullying senators Manchin and Sinema into supporting their attempt to federalize the election process, then moderates will flee the party and independents will stop voting for them. It seems that rational moderate Democrats have become the minority faction in the majority party in Congress these days,” he said.
Republicans reacted quickly to Schumer’s threat. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) promptly issued a statement via email to reporters saying, “an evenly divided Senate breaking and forever changing rules that require a supermajority is like a football team declaring its opponent’s end zone starts at the 40-yard line. It is absurd and dangerous to the institution itself.
“Senator Schumer’s rash, partisan power grab should be seen for what it is—desperation and a failure to do what Joe Biden and Democrats ran on: unify. If this rule change were to pass, the people of Utah and the United States would suffer immeasurably as the Senate devolves into a strictly majoritarian, Lord-of-the-Flies environment. Senator Schumer and his disastrous plan must be stopped.”
Republicans on the House side also took notice of Schumer’s comment. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Epoch Times late on Jan. 3 that “it’s ridiculous, this is just what Democrats are doing. They are attacking every norm and principle that we have and then they use this kind of language.”
“Their attempt now to end the filibuster and nationalize elections is just wholly unconstitutional. The Constitution says the time, place, and manner of elections is done by the legislatures of the respective states,” he said.
Public Interest Legal Foundation President J. Christian Adams told The Epoch Times that Schumer’s comment is a result of Democrats “needing a magic elixir because the polling on this is a disaster for them. Most people support voter ID by huge numbers, most people want their state governments to run their state elections, not Washington. They’re looking for the magic potion to energize anybody and they just haven’t found one yet.”
Adams, a former attorney in the DOJ’s Voting Rights Section, was appointed by Trump to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
A spokesman for Schumer didn’t respond to a request for comment.