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Manchin And Sinema Neutralize Democrats, Handing Republicans Veto Power Over Biden’s Agenda

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Kirsten Sinema and Joe Manchin

US senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announced last week that they will not support exempting voting rights legislation from the filibuster despite the pleading of President Biden, effectively neutralizing Democrats’ ability to pass legislation in all the areas under siege from Republicans, who now have veto power on any legislation that comes to the floor. And that means Democrats have little chance through this decade of preserving voting rights.

Their decision left Democrats are scrambling for a Plan B to pass voting rights legislation, with some Democrats discussing a novel approach to circumventing a Republican filibuster that may allow voting rights legislation to pass with 51 votes without changing the Senate’s rules.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) floated the idea of forcing Senate Republicans to actually hold the floor with speeches and procedural motions.

With that approach, Democrats hope that the Republican opposition may tire itself out after a few days or weeks and that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) may be able to then call for a simple-majority vote on final passage and skip the formal procedural vote — known as cloture — on ending debate.

“There are a couple of paths here. Do we go down the path and do a long debate until it’s done and then have a simple debate?” Kaine told reporters last week, according to The Hill.

“We wouldn’t need a rules change to pass the bill by simple majority if the debate is over. Theoretically, you do not need a rules change to pass a bill that’s on the floor, you just have to allow debate to occur,” he added.

But voting rights legislation is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface, there’s an axis of powerful forces in the forme of Republican-controlled state governments, the GOP-appointed majority on the Supreme Court and filibusters mounted by Senate Republicans designed to limit Democrats’ ability to set the national agenda, even as they hold unified control of the White House, House and the Senate.

As noted by CNN’s Ronald Brownstein this axis is now threatening “to roll back other civil rights and liberties, most prominently the nationwide right to abortion, which has prevailed since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, but also including transgender rights and the First Amendment rights of public school teachers over the discussion of race in the classroom.”

In his analysis, Brownstein also wrote that “taken together, the offensive and defensive maneuvers by this axis amount to a revolution from below — a powerful attempt by Republican-controlled institutions to drive national policy even while Democrats hold the executive branch and Congress, the traditional levers of federal policy-making.”

The analysis concludes that with history suggesting Democrats face a high risk of losing control of one, or both, congressional chambers in November, “it may be years before they get another chance to respond.”