Biden’s voting rights blocked by Democrats Sinema and Manchin

  • Schumer sets vote for Tuesday
  • President meets with key lawmakers to push for voting rights
  • Biden ‘not sure’ he will succeed

WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s attempt to rally Democrats on Thursday to change Senate rules and pass voting rights legislation was blocked, even before he arrived at the U.S. Capitol, by the opposition of a key moderate legislator.

US Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said in a Senate speech on Thursday – less than an hour before Biden’s lunchtime arrival – that the “filibuster rule” that allows a minority of senators to block the legislation was necessary to prevent deepening political divisions in the country.

After Biden left the Capitol following his meeting with Democrats, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin joined Sinema in opposing changes to Senate rules.

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However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced late Thursday that the Senate would begin debate on the legislation next Tuesday. If Republicans block that bill as expected, Schumer said he’s prepared to seek a change to the Senate’s filibuster rule to win passage.

While officials expected no quick breakthrough, Biden continued to press his case with Sinema and Manchin into the evening. The two senators met with Biden at the White House for a meeting that lasted more than an hour, the administration said.

None of the participants spoke to the media afterwards. A White House official called the meeting a “frank and respectful exchange of views.”

Earlier, when he left the Capitol, the president acknowledged that his party may not succeed in passing a voting rights bill.

“Hopefully we can get there, but I’m not sure,” Biden told reporters. “One thing is certain: like every other great civil rights bill that has come along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try a second time. We missed this time.

Biden and many fellow Democrats have stepped up their campaign to pass voting rights legislation after spending much of his first year in office on infrastructure and spending bills focused on COVID-19 relief. , infrastructure and social safety net programs.

They are pushing new legislation they say would protect ballot access, especially for minority voters, as Republican-controlled states pass new restrictions ahead of November 8 congressional elections.

Non-white voters disproportionately support Democratic candidates in the election.

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on suffrage during a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a voting bill on Thursday. But Democrats can’t overcome universal Republican opposition in the Senate without changing the chamber’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 of 100 senators to agree on most laws. The Democrats hold 50 seats.

“I will not support separate actions that aggravate the underlying disease of division in our country,” Sinema told the Senate.

Sinema and Manchin voted in December to bypass the 60-vote threshold to raise the country’s debt ceiling without Republican support.


Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucus with Democrats, said he thought Biden made his case during his meeting with lawmakers.

“It looks like the way forward is very difficult, especially based on Senator Sinema’s statement today,” he said. “She believes the risk of changing the filibuster is greater than the risk of what happens in the United States. I deeply hope she is right. I fear she is wrong.”

The House repackaged and passed two election-related bills into one, sending it to the Senate under a special procedure preventing Republicans from blocking debate. The bill was approved along party lines. Read more

“Make no mistake about it, the US Senate will be debating suffrage legislation for the first time in Congress starting on Tuesday,” Schumer said Thursday evening. Three separate attempts to debate the legislation last year were blocked by Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated on Wednesday that Republicans oppose Democrats’ voting rights legislation and filibuster amendments.

Former Democratic President Barack Obama wrote in a USA Today opinion piece on Thursday that the filibuster rule has become a tool for the House minority to obstruct moves supported by most voters.

“We cannot allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy,” Obama wrote.

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Additional reporting by David Morgan, Jarrett Renshaw, Trevor Hunnicutt and Moira Warburton; Written by Jarrett Renshaw, Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Mary Milliken, Heather Timmons, Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis, Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis

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