Earlier this week President Biden and VP Kamala Harris have been heavily promoting their voting rights bill, even appearing in Georgia to make speeches and lay a wreath at the tomb of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Thursday, however, Senator Kyrsten Sinema dealt what is likely a death blow to the bill.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) spoke to her colleagues in the Senate on Thursday, telling them that she will not vote to make changes to key procedural elements of the Senate voting process. Sinema has bucked her party leaders once again; throughout 2021 Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) vowed they would not vote for the Build Back Better legislation.
As a result, Sinema and Manchin have been hounded relentlessly. Sinema was followed into a restroom by individuals with video cameras; Joe Manchin has also been hounded while on his private houseboat, where he resides during Congressional sessions. Sinema was also harassed while she officiated a wedding last fall. These incidents were made public; it is unknown how many times Manchin and Sinema encountered harassment due to their promise not to support Joe Biden’s massive spending bill.
On Thursday, Sinema said to the Senate: “There’s no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the sixty-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy. This week’s harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year.”
Her comments are consistent with Sinema’s long-held beliefs regarding the filibuster. As a result, her decision not to support the election reform bills have effectively put a nail in the coffin of Democrats’ hopes to push the legislation through the Senate. Their election reform bills have no Republican support and are not likely to pass a Senate vote.
Sinema admonished her Senate colleagues further: “What is the legislative filibuster . . . other than a toll that requires new federal policy . . .Demands to eliminate this threshold from whichever party holds the fleeting majority to a group of people separated on two sides of a canyon, shouting that solution to their colleagues.”
On Thursday morning, the House of Representatives passed a bill that combined the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. However, these bills will not get sixty votes in the Senate. No Republicans support the measures, and the Senate Democrats know that neither Sinema nor Joe Manchin will vote for the measures. In addition, one Senator, a Democrat, is out and in isolation due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. With only forty-eight votes, the measures are dead on arrival in the Senate.
Sinema told her colleagues in the Senate that these bills are only “symptoms of the disease.” She said that she did not support bills that would further divide the country. She stated that she hopes that American can be unified once more, but stressed that these bills are not the way to do that.
As of this writing, it is not known whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will attempt to bring a vote on the measures using the “nuclear option.” It is likely that the measures would not pass even if Schumer attempted such a move.