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Democrats Still Have a Chance to Pass Their Voting Rights Bill

Not by altering the rules of the filibuster, but by making them more prominent.

To pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, Senate Democrats are constantly attempting to alter filibuster procedures. Their failures are becoming more frequent, and just last week, they had another one. As a result, terminating discussion on a measure still requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Many people assumed that both proposals were dead since the Democrats didn't have 60 votes in the Senate.

A simple majority vote might still be enough for the Democrats to approve their agenda. In typical Mr. Smith Goes to Washington style, it would need a prolonged "talking filibuster."

Republicans in the Senate are allowed to postpone a vote as long as they maintain the momentum of the discussion on the Senate floor. Moreover, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and others have shown, the floor may be held for an extended period of time. To ensure that senators don't talk more than twice on the same issue within a single legislative day, Senate Rule XIX stipulates that no senator may speak more than twice. A vote on a measure must be called when there are no more senators on the floor who may speak in accordance with the norm. After this, a simple majority is enough to approve a law. "

Maybe they could take turns speaking till the day is done, and then begin again? Democrats control the Senate's adjournment time. At 5 p.m., the legislative "day" doesn't finish. If a quorum of senators decides to adjourn the Senate, it doesn't have to happen at the conclusion of a calendar day. Democrats have the option of extending a legislative session by voting for a break rather than adjourning, or by keeping the Senate in session for the duration of the bill's discussion.

In order to make a special exception for this measure, the Democrats have narrowed Rule XIX. Actually, they hoped that the Republicans' power to submit amendments, motions, and points of order during the discussion would be curtailed by them. Not because he dislikes the "talking filibuster," but because the rule change would significantly restrict Republican involvement in the legislative process, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) vetoed the measure instead.

To thwart Republican amendments, Democrats don't even have to modify the rules. With a simple majority vote, they may thwart Republican changes to the Constitution without discussion. Conservatives might try to extend their filibuster with a variety of alternative resolutions after they have used up their two speeches, but history indicates that they would be in vain. Senators have never submitted amendments or other moves to postpone a vote indefinitely when given the option.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D–Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) are more likely to accept this plan since it maintains the Senate's existing filibuster rule. As Sinema has indicated, she is in favor of the two proposals and only opposes "eliminating the 60-vote barrier. " He hasn't ruled out supporting the bill and says he supports attempts to put pressure on senators who are filibustering. "If you want to make it a little more unpleasant, have him stand there and speak," Manchin said on NBC's Meet the Press last year. A simple majority vote to approve voting rights legislation does not seem like a red line for Manchin, who appears to believe in "breaking the rules to change the rules."

Democrats should listen to Manchin and Sinema and push Republicans to engage in a "talking filibuster" if they want to pass their voting rights legislation. Regardless of what happens next, Democrats should keep in mind that the filibuster is not just a simple roadblock—it is a weapon in the armory of politicians.

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