- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 2021

Senate Democratic leaders are pushing forward to alter the filibuster process in order to secure passage of a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s voting laws.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer plans to brief members of his caucus Friday on proposals to revamp the chamber’s rules on filibusters, which require at least 60 votes to end debate on legislation and allow it to come to a floor vote. Party activists call the bill a top priority and have lobbied hard to change the filibuster rules in order to secure passage of the bill. A version of the bill already cleared the Democratic-controlled House.

“The fight to protect voting rights and restore the United States Senate is moving forward,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Yesterday I continued to have detailed discussions with many of my colleagues about how we’re going to reach our goal of passing voting rights to ensure it takes effect before Americans return to the polls in the next election.”

The briefing will be attended by two members of the Senate parliamentarian’s office, who will advise on the process required to change the chamber’s long-standing rules.

Lawmakers say input from the unofficial referees of the Senate rules will help them determine the proper course of action needed to alter the filibuster and pass the voting rights legislation.

“We’re making progress, we don’t have anything to announce yet, but we’re making progress,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who is spearheading the rules change fight. “We’re looking at reforms to restore the Senate.”

At the moment Democrats are weighing several proposals.

Several lawmakers are pushing for a one-time filibuster exemption just to pass the election legislation.

But others want a more radical change to how Senate operates. Along those lines, there is talk of changing the filibuster rule to require 41 “no” votes for continuing debate rather than 60 “yes” votes for ending debate.

A few have also floated a requirement that senators mount an old-fashioned “talking filibuster,” which would require lawmakers to speak continuously on the floor in objection to a bill. Senators currently are allowed to merely object to ending debate, forcing leadership to round up the votes necessary to overcome the 60-vote threshold.

“We don’t do that much speaking,” said Mr. Kaine. “We’ve turned the talking filibuster into a non-talking filibuster.”

The meeting of all 50 Senate Democrats on the topic comes one day after President Biden privately lobbied lawmakers to nix the filibuster and pass his elections bill, which is uniformly opposed by Republicans.

During a private meeting with a cadre of Senate Democrats, Mr. Biden stressed the need for Congress to combat a recent flurry of state elections laws designed to battle fraud but which Democrats say is actually intended to intimidate some voters into staying away from the polls.

“It was just talking about the importance of not suppressing the vote, which is pretty fundamental to our democracy,” said Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat.

Mr. Biden’s intercession with lawmakers appeared to pay off Thursday. Sen. Maggie Hassan, a first-term Democrat from New Hampshire who is facing a strong reelection challenge next year, announced her support for jettisoning the filibuster for the voting bill.

“A set of arcane Senate rules are being used as an excuse not to act. This cannot stand,” Mrs. Hassan said. “We must change the rules to allow a simple majority of this body … to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.”

While Mrs. Hassan’s support is a boon for the effort, the real key to unlocking a rules change is Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate West Virginia Democrat. His support, with that of every other Democratic senator, would allow the majority to push through the change with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

Mr. Manchin has not specified if he is on board with the filibuster carve-out, but he has held talks with Democrats and Republicans on what changes need to be made to make the Senate operate better.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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