Voting laws can be controversial. Americans have had the right to vote for local and national office for two centuries. Both American political parties have often fought over what kind of election laws should be in place. Some laws are more debated over than others. One form of legislation in particular has gotten a lot of attention recently. A process known as the filibuster has long been a staple of American life. The filibuster is used in order to block potential legislation in the United States senate. Now, Democrats are fighting Republicans over the use of this concept and how it can be carried out.
Rewrite or Get Rid of it
The filibuster is a process whereby a member of the senator can choose to prevent legislation from being voted on or even heard in the first place by standing in the chamber and not allowing anyone to speak. In the United States, the filibuster has long been used for a variety of purposes. It has also been long opposed by many legislators who do think it is not a good idea to have it in place in a democracy. Now, the Senate’s Democrats are seeking to rewrite it or even get rid of it entirely.
A bill known as the Freedom to Vote Act earned 51 no votes and 49 yes votes. The initial the bill, called the For the People Act when it was brought to the Senate in March, was passed in the House of Congress where the Democrats retain a majority. The bill then went to the Senate. It did not pass in large part because Senate Republicans choose to filibuster it. Now, the Dems are seeking to find ways to rewrite this mechanism as it stands or find ways to get rid of the filibuster entirely.
Changing the rules governing this measure promises to be tough. All fifty Senate Democrats must agree to do so. Two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are on record stating they would not support such measures. Without their support, the filibuster is likely to continue to remain part of the legislative process in the Senate.
Lacking Republican Support
Efforts to get rid of the filibuster and pass this legislation are also opposed by the Senate’s Republicans. As it stands, this particular bill contains many important ideas that both parties are said to hold dear. These issues include issues related to voter identification requirements as well as issues relating to how elections are funded at all levels of government. At the same time, while both parties are said to support such issues, no Republicans have chosen to support a discussion of these measures on the Senate floor.
Even Democrats are not sure what is likely to happen and how it is likely to unfold over time. Senator Dick Durban of Illinois, when asked about this process, stated, ““That’s a delicate issue. I think that we know that there are several members of our caucus that are not going to support it.”
Settling For Changes to the Law
Rather than abolish it entirely, many Dems are said to be open to reforming the filibuster. Other members of the legislative body such as Angus King, an independent from Maine, are said to be open to potential compromises. However, Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky and the leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, have openly stated they are not on board with any attempt to change any such laws. In his opinion, this is a power grab by extremists who do not speak for all Americans.
Progressives and liberal groups are also said to be deeply unhappy with the issue at it stands. Speaking on behalf of the Biden White House, press Secretary Jennifer Psaki stated that the administration is not pleased with the current situation in the Senate.