Bernie Sanders open to supporting primary challenges against Sinema and Manchin – live – The Guardian
Lisa Murkowski, the only Senate Republican who voted to advance the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act last year, signaled opposition to Democrats’ latest proposal.
The Senate is holding a debate as the chamber prepares for a procedural vote on Democrats’ newest voting rights bill, which combines elements of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
In her floor speech moments ago, Murkowski reiterated her commitment to protecting voting rights but said she did not believe this bill sufficiently covered states’ rights to set their own election laws.
Over on Capitol Hill, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell lamented the “sad spectacle” of Democrats trying to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
McConnell accused majority leader Chuck Schumer of launching a “direct assault on the core identity of the Senate” by attempting to amend the filibuster, which Republicans have repeatedly used to block Democrats’ voting rights bills.
“Our colleague from New York will try to kill the character of the institution he is supposed to protect and to serve,” McConnell said.
“The legislative filibuster is a central Senate tradition. It is the indispensable feature of our institution. It makes the Senate serve its founding purpose: forging compromise, cooling passions and ensuring new laws earn broad support from a cross-section of our country.”
Of course, bipartisan compromise has become increasingly rare in Washington, and using the filibuster to block the opposing party’s bills is now considered standard practice in the Senate.
Later today, Joe Biden will hold the 10th press conference of his presidency, far fewer than any of his recent predecessors during their first year in office.
In a sharp shift from Donald Trump, Biden has said journalists are “indispensable to the functioning of democracy”, which the president has repeatedly warned is under threat at home and abroad. Yet press access to the president has been limited.
Biden has held just nine formal news conferences during his first year, according to research compiled by Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project. Trump had held 22 and Barack Obama 27 at the same point in their presidencies.
Only Ronald Reagan, whose public appearances were scaled back following an assassination attempt in March 1981, held fewer press conferences during his first year. But Reagan did 59 interviews that year, compared with Biden, who has only done 22.
Trump, who labeled the media the “enemy of the American people” and once praised a congressman who assaulted a reporter, did 92 interviews during his first year.
Biden does field questions more frequently than his predecessors, but takes fewer of them, according to Kumar’s tally. These impromptu exchanges with reporters often follow scheduled remarks or public appearances.
“For the president, it is a question of how do you use your time?” Kumar said. “And for Biden, he has wanted to use his time negotiating privately on his policies.”
Read the Guardian’s full report:
Biden to hold press conference amid struggles to pass voting rights bill
Joe Biden will hold a press conference this afternoon, as the president marks one year since he took the oath of office.
The president is expected to field tough questions about Democrats’ failure to pass their voting rights bill and the Build Back Better Act, as well as his unimpressive approval rating.
Speaking at her daily briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki instead stressed the accomplishments of Biden’s first year in office, including boosting coronavirus vaccination rates and getting the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law.
“We need to build on that. The work is not done. The job is not done. And we are certainly not conveying it is,” Psaki said.
“So, our objective — and I think what you’ll hear the president talk about tomorrow — is how to build on the foundation we laid in the first year.”
The press conference is scheduled to begin at 4pm ET, and the blog will have updates and analysis once it starts. Stay tuned.
at 11.30am EST
Worth noting: most Senate Democrats are actually sitting in the chamber to listen to the debate over their voting rights bill, per CNN.
The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the bill later today, and it will almost certainly fail. Because of a Republican filibuster, the bill will need 60 votes to advance, which will not happen in the 50-50 Senate.
In his own Senate floor speech today, majority leader Chuck Schumer reiterated his argument that members have a duty to pass voting rights legislation and strengthen America’s election systems.
Schumer sharply criticized Republicans for downplaying the impact of the voting restrictions enacted by 19 states in the past year.
“Our Republican colleagues don’t even acknowledge that we have a crisis,” Schumer said, noting that minority leader Mitch McConnell claimed states were not engaged in voter suppression.
Schumer outlined some of the restrictions that states have enacted, including limiting early voting and hours at polling places and making it harder to register to vote.
“Just as Donald Trump has his ‘big lie,’ Leader McConnell now has his: ‘States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever,’” Schumer said.
at 10.54am EST
Manchin to deliver floor speech on voting rights and filibuster reform
Senator Joe Manchin will deliver a floor speech this afternoon outlining his position on changing chamber rules to allow voting rights legislation to move forward.
“It is such an important issue that all of us have grave concerns about, and it’s worthy of the time we spend,” Manchin told CNN.
“I would like to see us stay on the bill. There’s no use to try to bring this to finality by having a vote that’s going to fail tonight. Let’s just stay on it.”
As of now, the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on whether to advance Democrats’ voting rights bill, which passed the House last week.
That vote, which will need the support of 60 members because of the filibuster, is expected to fail. And as long as Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continue to oppose rule changes, the bill has no path to passage in the Senate.
Kelly backs rule changes to get voting rights bill passed
Mark Kelly, one of the last Senate Democrats who had not yet clarified his position on filibuster reform, has now said he supports rule changes to allow voting rights legislation to advance.
The Arizona Republic reports that Kelly, who is up for reelection this year, supports a “talking filibuster” rule only for Democrats voting rights bill.
“If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote,” Kelly said in a statement.
“Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction.”
A talking filibuster would still require 60 Senate votes to cut off debate on a proposal, but that debate would eventually come to an end anyway as the filibusters gave up the floor. Once they did so, the debated bill could be passed by a simple majority of 51 votes.
Democrats have been discussing a talking filibuster rule as a potential compromise for those who do not support eliminating the filibuster all together.
However, as of now, the talking filibuster proposal does not have the necessary support for approval because Joe Manchin has said he wants all rule changes to attract bipartisan support, and Republicans remain staunchly opposed to weakening the filibuster.
at 10.12am EST
Republican redistricting weakens influence of minority voters, report finds
Republicans are severely distorting district lines to their advantage and weakening the influence of minority voters as they draw new district lines across the country, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice.
The report, which examines the state of play of the ongoing decennial redistricting cycle, notes that Republicans are shielding their efforts to dismantle minority districts by arguing that the new lines are based on partisanship.
While racial discrimination in redistricting is illegal, the US supreme court said in 2019 that discrimination based on partisanship was acceptable.
“This cycle is seeing unprecedented efforts to undermine the political power of Black, Latino, Asian, and Native communities through redistricting, especially in southern states that, for the first time in more than half a century, are no longer covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” the report says.
“Some of the most aggressive attacks on minority power are coming in the suburbs of southern states like Texas and Georgia. There, Republicans have surgically dismantled rapidly diversifying districts where communities of color have enjoyed increasing electoral success in recent years,” it adds.
The report also notes that Republicans, who have complete control over the drawing of 187 of the US House’s 435 districts, are making districts much less competitive.
Donald Trump won 54 districts by 15 or more points in states where the GOP controls redistricting under old maps. Under the new plan, that number increases to 70.
The redistricting cycle is still ongoing. New York, Tennessee, and Missouri are still among the states where lawmakers are drawing new maps.
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are also experiencing some external pressure as they resist efforts to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
EMILY’s List, the progressive group that backs women candidates who support abortion rights, said it would withhold its endorsement from Sinema because of her stance on filibuster reform.
“Our mission can only be realized when everyone has the freedom to have their voice heard safely and freely at the ballot box,” EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler said in a statement released yesterday.
Butler noted that her group has not contributed to or endorsed Sinema’s campaign since she first won her Senate seat in Arizona’s 2018 elections.
“Electing Democratic pro-choice women is not possible without free and fair elections. Protecting the right to choose is not possible without access to the ballot box,” Butler said.
“So, we want to make it clear: if Sen. Sinema can not support a path forward for the passage of this legislation, we believe she undermines the foundations of our democracy, her own path to victory and also the mission of EMILY’s List, and we will be unable to endorse her moving forward.”
Sanders suggests he may back primary challenges to Sinema and Manchin
Greetings, live blog readers.
Progressive senator Bernie Sanders has said he may consider supporting primary challengers to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the two holdouts in Democrats’ debate over whether to amend the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
Sanders told reporters yesterday that he believes “there is a very good chance” the two senators will face primary challenges because of their stance on the filibuster.
When asked if he would consider backing such primary challengers, Sanders replied, “Well, yeah.”
Manchin brushed off the warning, saying, “I’ve been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me.”
But Sanders’ comments underscore the growing rift in the Democratic party over the filibuster and, more broadly, the best response to Republican obstructionism.
While progressives support using every tool at their disposal to circumvent Republican tactics, centrists like Manchin and Sinema still underscore the importance of bipartisanship, which has become increasingly rare in Washington.
Joe Biden will hold a press conference later today, and he will almost certainly be asked what that divide says about his party and whether he can get anything else done in Congress with members of his own party at odds.
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