By Ray Bogan (Reporter), Ben Burke (Digital Producer), Emma Stoltzfus (Editor)
Update (Jan. 4, 2022): Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) sounded skeptical when talking to reporters about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) plan to hold a vote on a change to filibuster rules. He told the reporters the Democratic push to change the rules was a “heavy lift”, saying it was his “absolute preference” that Republicans also support any proposed changes.
“I think that for us to go it alone, no matter what side does, it ends up coming back at you pretty hard,” Sen. Manchin said.
However, he didn’t flat out oppose the plan, saying he was exploring “the options we have open.”
Original Story (Jan. 3, 2022): In a Monday letter to colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the Senate will vote on a change to the filibuster rules before Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17. How Senate rules would be changed remains under discussion. However, Sen. Schumer said the current rules have been “warped and contorted to obstruct and embarrass the will of majority – something our Founders explicitly opposed.”
“We must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history,” Schumer wrote in the letter. “As former Sen. Robert Byrd famously said, Senate Rules “must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.” Put more plainly by Senator Byrd (D-WV), ‘Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past.’”
According to Schumer, the purpose for changing the rules is to pass “urgently-needed voting rights legislation.” The Freedom to Vote Act has been stalled in the evenly-split 50-50 Senate, needing a change to the filibuster rules in order to go anywhere. It was drafted in response to a rash of Republican-led state legislatures introducing and passing their own voting bills.
“We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same,” Schumer wrote in the letter. It came just a day after a CBS News poll found a majority of Americans believed democracy in the United States is under threat.
The idea of changing the filibuster rules has been discussed for months now. However, it is unclear if Senate Democrats have the support necessary to make it happen. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have said if the rules change, Republicans could use the lower voting threshold to advance bills Democrats oppose.