Senate Democrats failed to get the support of all party members to change Senate rules and pass election reform without Republican support in session on Wednesday, January 19.
In what some consider a historic session due to the weight of the electoral reform that Democrats wanted to pass, the two Democratic senators considered moderates, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kristen Sinema of Arizona, were the big players of the session.
The electoral reform that the Democrats wanted to pass in haste is not popular among Republicans. So majority Leader Chuck Schumer resorted to what would be the last resort to pass legislation without the support of the minority or opposition—eliminating the quorum or, in the case of the United States—the so-called filibuster.
The filibuster is a signatory rule designed to force debate between those who hold the majority of seats with those who hold the minority. In other words, it is a “defense” mechanism to prevent the dominant party from passing legislation without any opposition.
In the case of the U.S. Senate, the filibuster requires that legislation receive 60 votes in favor to pass, which is considered a large majority.
Currently, Republicans and Democrats have 50 seats each, so the vote is decided by the Senate President, Ms. Kamala Harris, if there is a “tie” vote for and against.
Initially, a singular vote was taken for election reform which concluded with a vote of 49-51, with leader Chuck Schumer being the only one to vote against to bring the vote back.
Then, the vote was taken to temporarily remove the filibuster rule to vote on election reform but as expected, the vote concluded 48-52 with all of the Republican opposition voting against plus support from Sinema and Manchin.
“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart,” Manchin said during Wednesday’s session according to Fox News. “Contrary to what some have said, protecting the role of the minority—Democrat or Republican—has protected us from the volatile political swings that we have endured over the last 233 years.”
Mitchell McConnell, the Republican leader, said eliminating the filibuster would be the end of the institution, “The legislative filibuster is a central Senate tradition. It is the indispensable feature of our institution. It makes the Senate serve its founding purpose—forging compromise, cooling passions, and ensuring that new laws earn broad support from a cross-section of our country.”
Among the points most criticized by Republicans on the electoral reform is it would allow voting without an official ID, prisoners and felons would also be part of the roll, voting by mail would be universal, and people could sign up to vote on the same day of the elections. However, what the Republicans claim most concerning is that the elections would be regulated by the central government, taking away the role that each state traditionally performs independently.
This is the second time the Biden administration failed to pass a big piece of legislation without support from Republicans.
The multi-billion infrastructure spending bill called Build Back Better had a similar fate. It failed to pass due to opposition from Manchin, who said the bill would increase already high inflation.