After failing to pass a bill mandating a major overhaul of election laws, Senate Democrats are planning their next steps to raise awareness about the issue and focus attention on a key battleground state: Georgia.
The Democratic-led Senate Rules Committee intends to hold a series of hearings, including one in Georgia, to call for new legislation to be passed, as well as to highlight Republican-led efforts at the state level to enact restrictive measures in the wake of the rise of mail-in voting during the 2020 election season.
At the top of the list is Georgia, where President Joe Biden won by a razor-thin margin and two Democratic senators were elected, effectively giving their party control of the Senate — sparking outrage from former President Donald Trump and conspiracy theories that the election was rigged. Since then, Republicans in Georgia have pushed through new voting restrictions in a state where the Senate majority could be decided once again in the 2022 midterm elections.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, plans to hold a field hearing in Georgia, as well as a series of other hearings, to draw attention to GOP efforts at the state level and renew calls for a broader bill at the federal level, according to Klobuchar.
“This fight has just begun,” Klobuchar said in a statement to CNN. “That’s why, as chairwoman of the Rules Committee, I am announcing a series of hearings on the urgent need to pass critical voting, campaign finance, and ethics reforms, including a field hearing in Georgia to hear testimony on the recently enacted legislation to restrict voting in the state.”
The move highlights Democrats’ legislative reality: they need 60 votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, and they’re looking for ways to keep the issue front and center in the run-up to next year’s midterm elections.
Even if Democrats broke up their sweeping bill, which Republicans say amounts to a federal takeover of state-run elections, they would almost certainly fall short of a supermajority to pass legislation on a contentious issue.
Democrats have been eager to show that their party is united —- that all 50 members of their Senate caucus are on the same page —- which is why they have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to secure the support of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who opposes his party’s bill. Instead, Manchin has proposed a more limited alternative plan, and on Tuesday he announced that he would vote to move forward with the bill in order to make changes to the underlying legislation.
However, because they lack 60 votes, Democrats will be unable to begin debate on the bill, prompting many in their caucus to call for changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules, which would lower the threshold to 51 votes from 60. Nonetheless, Manchin, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and other Democrats, including New Hampshire Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, have been vocal opponents of removing the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer refused to say what his next steps on the voting issue would be on Tuesday. And, despite the fact that there isn’t enough support to do so, he would not rule out gutting the 60-vote threshold.
“As I said, we are not going to put the cart before the horse. We are going to have the vote, then we will discuss the future,” the New York Democrat said Tuesday when asked about the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.