Republicans on Tuesday issued a stark warning to President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats: change the Senate rules at your peril.
Mr. Biden on Tuesday endorsed changes to the Senate filibuster, the rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation, so that just a simple majority of votes would be needed to pass two pieces of voting rights legislation that have been a top priority for national Democrats.
“To preserve our democracy, I believe in changing the Senate rules to stop a minority senator from blocking voting rights actions.” Mr. Biden stated.
Before the visit of Mr. Biden to Georgia, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was “trying bully his members into breaking them, breaking the Senate and silence the voices of millions so one party can overthrow our country’s elections at the top.”
McConnell also issued a stern warning to Democrats if they continue to push for the rules change.
” “If my colleague attempts to break the Senate in order to silence these millions of Americans we will make them heard in the chamber in ways which are more convenient for the majority than anything anyone has ever seen in living memories,” McConnell stated on Tuesday.
Senate Republicans claimed Tuesday that fundamentally changing the Senate rules could result in a significant change to the institution.
” This is not just one issue,” stated Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican senator from West Virginia. This is fundamentally about changing the fabric. The Senate’s filibuster helps to ensure that there aren’t dramatic swings between administrations, minorities, or majorities. We also keep the ship moving in the right direction while working together. “
Florida Senator Rick Scott, who serves as chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said he would be eager to force vulnerable incumbent Democrats to cast votes on issues like immigration, law enforcement funding, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and education.
” I think there will be some Democrats that are going to want be on our side,” Scott stated Tuesday. He was referring to the votes Republicans could force to remove the filibuster.
Schumer stated Tuesday that the Senate would act as soon as [Wednesday]” regarding voting rights legislation. The senator will take “the necessary steps to move the legislation” if Republicans try to stop the passage of election reform and voting rights bills such as the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Uncertain which type of rule changes will be put to a vote.
“If Republicans keep stealing the Senate’s rules to stop voting rights, if this happens, if the Senate continues to paralyze the chamber until we are powerless to resist the Big Lie, then we need to consider what steps we can take to allow the Senate to adapt and act,” Schumer said.
But, it is difficult to imagine how the majority leader can move these measures forward. Every Democrat must vote to change the Senate filibuster rules. Two of the Senators, Joe Manchin from West Virginia, and Kyrsten Silenza of Arizona have stated repeatedly that they are opposed to major changes.
” We need good rule changes in order to make this place more efficient, but getting rid off the filibuster won’t make it better,” Manchin stated Tuesday.
Schumer, asked why he’s planning a vote when not all 50 Democrats are united behind a plan, he responded, “First, we’re still working to get it done, and we are still having, as we speak, active discussions with both Senators Manchin and Sinema. There’s a 50-person discussion here. This is number 1. This is number two. The job of senators is to vote. And the more pressing and important the issue, the more importance that has. This is how we will vote. “
Georgia has a long history of battles over voting rights and has become a hotly contested political battleground in the past few years.
Mr. Biden narrowly won the state in 2020, becoming the first Democrat to do so since 1992. Victories by two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in January 2021 gave Democrats control of the Senate. Last year, Georgia lawmakers overhauled the state’s election laws. The Department of Justice is among the plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits challenging Georgia’s new law.
Republicans in Georgia have fiercely defended its election law.
“We secured the ballot box and restored confidence in elections, making it easier to vote and harder for cheaters,” Brian Kemp, Georgia Republican Governor said.
Georgia is one of at least 19 states that passed bills restricting voting access in 2021, according to the progressive Brennan Center for Justice. Dozens of similar bills are being carried over into 2022 legislative sessions or have been filed ahead of those sessions.
Denise and others have claimed that these laws raise the urgency of setting federal standards for early voting, mail-voting and voter ID. They also restore the Justice Department’s ability to authorize changes to electoral laws in states where there has been discrimination.
“The defeated former president and his supporters use the big lie about the 2020 election to fuel torment and anti-voting laws,” Mr. Biden said in his speech.
Republicans have rejected those efforts.
“(Democrats) are trying to seize more power for themselves and federalize elections,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told reporters on Tuesday.
Mr. Biden’s visit to Georgia wasn’t widely celebrated by state voting rights activists. Some groups chose not to attend the speech, saying it’s time for Democrats to take action rather than make speeches.
” Without President Biden applying the same urgency to voting rights that he applied for BBB or infrastructure, America could soon become unrecognizable,” Derrick Johnson, President of NAACP stated in a statement. While President Biden gave a moving speech, it is time for the administration to follow through with their words and allow Congress to fulfill their duties. It should be more than a priority. “
CBS News journalist covering the Senate.