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Tipsheet

Schumer Aims to Change Senate Rules to Pass Voting Legislation

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Update:

The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action also provided a statement about the absurd connection from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about January 6 and voter integrity laws, which highlights concerns with the legislation Democrats are pushing:

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“In 2021, state lawmakers ushered in smart and transparent election integrity reforms, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. This work should be commended, as voter integrity and trust in our elections are the bedrock of our American democracy. Instead, the liberal elite spent all of 2021 creating a false narrative of voter disenfranchisement and suppression as Democrat leaders and the media tried to convince Americans reforms such as voter ID were racist.

However, the American people did not buy into their lies, and Democrat leaders in Washington have now pivoted to the anniversary of January 6th. Senator Schumer and his cronies are now using the events of last January as a means to accomplish their never-ending goal of permanent power.

Disguised as a ‘voting rights’ bill, Schumer’s anti-voter agenda is nothing more than an attempt to take power away from the American people and forever undermine the integrity of our elections.

This proposed legislation will give Washington bureaucrats power over our election systems and throw out measures like voter ID in every state — a common-sense measure that is continually supported by over 80% of the American people.

Americans want voter integrity, and they know the Left’s partisan narrative has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with rigging the rules to keep Democrats in power to pass their agenda without our support.”

Original:

In the New Year, Democrats are upping their ruthlessness to get what they want. As Jordain Carney reported for The Hill on Monday, "Schumer vows Senate rules change vote by Jan. 17 if GOP blocks voting rights." Democrats have been trying to pass voting legislation that would amount to a federal takeover of elections but have been able to get any Republican support to overcome the filibuster.

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Carney highlighted a "Dear Colleague" letter sent from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to fellow Senate Democrats on January 3. 

Like The New York Times editorial board wrote about on January 1, the majority leader connected the Capitol Hill riot on January 6 to election integrity laws that Republican legislatures are in most states across the country:

Our democracy held – for now.

As we all are witnessing, the attacks on our democracy have not ceased. In fact, they have only accelerated. Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the US Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically non-partisan election administration functions. While these actions all proceed under the guise of so-called “election integrity”, the true aim couldn’t be more clear. They want to unwind the progress of our Union, restrict access to the ballot, silence the voices of millions of voters, and undermine free and fair elections. They wish to propagate the Big Lie perpetuated by the former president that our elections are not on the level.

Democrats have shown a particular obsession with relitigating January 6, and then blaming it on Republicans. Their mainstream media allies have done the same, not merely The New York Times, but the Sunday shows. And Schumer's letter highlights that January 6 is supposedly part of a larger issue:

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Make no mistake about it: this week Senate Democrats will make clear that what happened on January 6th and the one-sided, partisan actions being taken by Republican-led state legislatures across the country are directly linked, and we can and must take strong action to stop this anti- democratic march. Specifically, as we honor the brave Capitol police officers who defended us from those motivated by the Big Lie who tried to undo a fair and free election, Senate Democrats will continue to make the case for passing voting rights legislation to counter the Republican voter suppression and election nullification laws with the same anti-democratic motives born out of the Big Lie.

Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness - an effort to delegitimize our election process, and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration – they will be the new norm. Given the urgency of the situation and imminence of the votes, we as Senate Democrats must urge the public in a variety of different ways to impress upon their Senators the importance of acting and reforming the Senate rules, if that becomes a perquisite for action to save our democracy.

Jason Snead, executive director of Honest Elections Project Action, provided a statement to Townhall condemning connecting the legislation with January 6.

"Using the anniversary of 1/6 as cover to change the Senate rules and push through a highly partisan federal takeover of elections is abhorrent. Rather than use this opportunity to unite Americans, liberal Democrats have chosen to divide us by trying to ram through unpopular and unconstitutional election legislation. If your goal is to irreparably poison American democracy and undermine the credibility of our election system, I could think of no better legislation to accomplish that. This crass and cynical power grab deserves a resounding rebuke by senators and congressmen of both parties," he said. 

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Predictably but nevertheless worrisome, Schumer is talking about the filibuster, as he had referenced in a previous letter from last month. "If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation," the December 20 letter mentioned

Proposed changes to the filibuster, as referenced by Carney, include a talking filibuster or moving from 60 "yes" votes to 41 "no" votes to sustain. 

Another idea would be to carve out a filibuster specifically for voting legislation. Such a carve out happened last month, actually, with help from Republicans who agreed to suspend the filibuster so as to allow Democrats to vote to raise the debt ceiling along party lines. 

Sure enough, such a move, which was an agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has led to this slippery slope. 

As fiercely determined as Schumer may be, he would need all 50 Democrats to sign on board to agree to changing the filibuster. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) continue to support the filibuster, though. 

President Joe Biden has been unhelpfully vague on his position about the filibuster. But, in an interview with David Muir that aired December 23, the president said he is willing to do "whatever it takes" to get voting legislation passed, including "making an exception on voting rights for the filibuster."

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Schumer's January 3 letter, while not referencing the filibuster by name, does warn of how it is supposedly outdated:

The Senate was designed to protect the political rights of the minority in the chamber, through the promise of debate and the opportunity to amend. But over the years, those rights have been warped and contorted to obstruct and embarrass the will of majority – something our Founders explicitly opposed. The constitution specified what measures demanded a supermajority – including impeachment or the ratification of treaties. But they explicitly rejected supermajority requirements for legislation, having learned firsthand of such a requirement’s defects under the Articles of Confederation. The weaponization of rules once meant to short-circuit obstruction have been hijacked to guarantee obstruction.

...

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. As former Senator Robert Byrd famously said, Senate Rules “must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.” Put more plainly by Senator Byrd, “Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past.”

The Senate is supposed to be the less democratic of the two bodies. Senators weren't even directly elected until the Seventeenth amendment which was ratified in 1913. 

The move is purposefully taking place on January 17, so as to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

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