The Pivot To Voting Rights: A Time To Be Honest

Sens. Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Newsline reporter Chase Woodruff relays the new message from U.S. Senate Democrats, who are said to be “shelving” consideration of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill in order to switch focus to quickly passing voting rights legislation:

Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado on Wednesday announced his support for “changes” to the filibuster, as Senate Democrats move to take up voting rights legislation in the final weeks of the year.

“We’ve been here almost a year, and we’ve seen enough: It’s time to change the filibuster to protect voting rights,” Hickenlooper said in a statement released by his office. “Protecting the right to vote shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and we set out to work across the aisle. But three separate voting rights bills have failed in the Senate this year.”

Hickenlooper’s announcement came as Senate Democrats signaled they would postpone consideration of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” budget bill until next year, and instead move forward with legislation to protect voting rights.

News of this shift of priority to passing legislation to protect voting rights, which has always been the highest Democratic priority after passage of Build Back Better itself, comes as talks between the White House and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia broke down this week over continued funding of the expanded Child Tax Credit–putting Manchin squarely into conflict with one of the CTC’s principal supporters, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado:

One of the most pivotal issues holding up progress is the child tax credit, a major Democratic Party priority that delivers aid to families and is key to the Biden administration’s effort to reduce child poverty. Manchin wants to cut the expanded child tax credit from the bill, with a source telling CNN that he wants to “zero it out.”

The Denver Post’s Alex Burness reports, we’re talking about a lot of Colorado families who will very quickly feel the pain unless the tax credit is extended:

Some 600,000 Colorado households were slated Wednesday to receive their monthly payment through the federal expanded child tax credit program.

But those families should not count on this program continuing. Unless Congress acts to extend the program — and that doesn’t appear likely in this calendar year — there’s no promise of any payments beyond those that go out Dec. 15.

If this program expires, said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who has championed this tax credit, “It’s going to make it harder for (families) to pay the rent, to pay for food, to pay for child care.”

If the push to change filibuster rules enough to get a voting rights bill through with 50+1 votes succeeds, and the latest word is that fellow recalcitrant Sen. Krysten Sinema still doesn’t support weakening the filibuster so that is not in any way assured despite Manchin’s expressed support for a voting rights bill, it would be a significant accomplishment for Democrats with practical benefits in terms of combating vote suppression going into the 2022 midterms. But with so much hanging in the balance including the biggest direct attempt to reduce childhood poverty in most of our lifetimes, the fight to fund the CTC with or without the rest of Build Back Better will be top priority in the new year.

No honest observer of this situation can characterize it as politically ideal for Democrats. The U.S. Senate 50/50 split has left the party’s agenda effectively at the mercy of its weakest links. Sens. Manchin and Sinema have done tremendous damage by protracting this intra-party struggle through the first year of Biden’s presidency, and showing voters how fractious the couldn’t-be-narrower Democratic majority coalition is. The results of the 2021 elections threw a scare into Democratic leadership, who responded by hastily passing the bipartisan roads and bridges bill–giving Biden a bankable win at the expense of weakening his negotiating position to pass Build Back Better.

What Colorado Democrats must always remember is that this is not being done by fellow Colorado Democrats like Sen. Bennet and Sen. Hickenlooper. They are victims of the weakness at the margin of this smallest possible majority like the rest of us. Manchin has kicked the legs out from under major policy priorities from both Hickenlooper and now Bennet with Manchin’s assault on the Child Tax Credit. And if Bennet or Hickenlooper “get tough on Manchin,” whatever that means but that being the battle cry of vengeful progressive activists, Manchin will simply make good on his threats to switch parties, at which point all hope of passing anything Democrats want ends.

With all of this dreary reality acknowledged, the long-term best-case scenario is still pretty good. If Democrats get meaningful voting rights protections to Biden’s desk in this priority pivot, if they return after the holidays with renewed urgency to pass Build Back Better and keep relief flowing to millions of American families…

Until that is mathematically impossible, the only option is to keep plugging away with the army they have.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. A dreary situation indeed. Sinema's opposition to even minor revisions – or reversions – of the filibuster rule is really incomprehensible if she is what she says she is. The current fillibuster is a no-effort sop to the minority. Making it a talking filibuster requiring 40 members (or a 40% present count) to continue would at least make the minority work for their obstruction.

  2. Gilpin Guy says:

    Get something even if it is less than half a loaf.  Throw CTC overboard if that means the rest of BBB gets passed.  There is no hard line that can achieve anything.  Accept this dreary reality and get on with it.

  3. MartinMark says:

    The choice seems clear and simple to me.  Either:

    A. Call the question, draw a line in the stand, take a stand on this hill… and fight for voting rights while they have a chance, and yes, risk "losing" Manchin-Enema.

    Or:

    B. Wait a year, and then lose the Senate anyway, and the House.

    Enough of these two asshats already: call the question with those two fucks and make them choose a side.  If we are going to lose either way, then FFS go down fighting for a change.

  4. NOV GOP meltdown says:

    How is it any threat at all that if anyone "gets tough" on Manchin he'll join the Republican party ? That does not matter, because he behaves like one already. 

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      He does vote for most of Biden's appointments as a Democrat which is nice when it comes to judicial appointments. But that's about as useful as he is.

      IF Manchin were a Republican, he would need to support McConnell's policy of refusing to confirm judicial appointments until there is another Republican president. 

    • Voyageur says:

      It matters a great deal as it gives a gop majority.  Mitch rules Senate, every committee a gop chairman and majority.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        Oh that too…..

        There will be investigations (a la the Benghazi committee) into all the Biden administration malfeasance, non-feasance, and of course, that 800-pound gorilla in the room, the stolen 2020 election.

        Imagine a select committee comprised of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Mike Lee investigating Hugo Chavez, Gina Haspel’s injuries while retrieving that server in Germany last year, the Chinese bamboo ballots. Paging the Cyber Ninjas.

        Release the kraken!

      • NOV GOP meltdown says:

        Yeah, so there's that. Just pissed off about all the obstructionism I guess. The lobbyists and status quo win again.

      • JohnInDenver says:

        We would revert to Senate consideration of ONLY those things McConnell wanted to bring to the floor. There can be certain inaction by Executive agencies if McConnell can block confirmation of nominations.  There would be no committee hearings to serve as platforms for prominent Democratic Senators. 

        we'd be one step (or more) closer to Armageddon.

  5. itlduso says:

    It is correct to laser focus on voting rights.  Nothing else is as important as protecting the 2022 and 2024 federal elections from nullification by GOP state legislatures.  Note that only 27% of the GOP today believe that Biden won the election (!)  How do you think they'll decide who won the 2022 and 2024 federal elections in their states?

    This is all in Biden's court right now.  Remember that Biden would not be president but for the endorsement by James Clyburn.  Biden now needs to deliver back to Clyburn.  As I noted earlier, he needs to go nuclear on Manchin and Sinema's asses.  It is time to risk everything, including possibly losing those two to the GOP, because everything is at risk.  I can't imagine either of them pulling a Nighthorse Campbell on the issue of voting rights.  Can you?

    Once voting rights are passed, then the negotiations on BBB can progress.  Not before.

    • Voyageur says:

      Woe is us.  We’ve had a one-vote majority for almost a year now and STILL haven’t achieved Utopia! 

      You’d almost think somebody, James Madison maybe, designed our Constitution to go slowly.

      The Senate as “kind of a saucer” to slow things down?

      Naw, let the purges begin!

      We won’t stop until the minimum wage is double the median wage.

  6. Old Time Dem says:

    The founders probably intuitively understood the Condorcet jury theorem even if they were not formally exposed to it (which is possible, since the Marquis published it in 1785).

    But, the Condorcet jury theorem break down in the presence of voting blocs. Madison thought, wrongly, that the Constitutional structure would prevent the formation of parties. That, obviously, was a particularly egregious bit of short-sightedness.

    Thus, instead of an august, reasonably large body of sages reasoning independently on policy matters, we have the functional equivalent of a three person Senate, which virtually guarantees a lot of poor decision-making (which includes what is often the worst choice, doing nothing, in the face of momentous issues such as addressing the destruction of our planet by continuing to burn fossil fuels).

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