Democrats’ stalled agenda raises party tensions

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For a second time in just a few weeks, Republicans used the filibuster to block Democrats from bringing key legislation to the Senate floor, stalling the party’s agenda and forcing lawmakers to confront the limits of a bare majority.

Democrats this week also began grappling with divisions within their party over whether to eliminate the 60-vote threshold that now makes it easy for the GOP to stop Democratic legislation from ever reaching the floor.

They are under pressure from the party’s liberal base, which is becoming increasingly frustrated as a backlog of crucial legislation piles up.

More than 100 liberal groups wrote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, urging him to end the filibuster.

“We cannot allow the filibuster to stand in the way of progress or imperil the health of our democracy,” several groups, including Common Cause, Public Citizen, and Working Families Party, wrote to Schumer.

Senate Republicans this week blocked the House-passed Paycheck Fairness Act, long considered a party priority and a top agenda item for President Joe Biden.

Last month, Republicans filibustered a measure that would have created an independent and bipartisan commission to examine the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Republicans warned Democrats this week to expect the GOP to stand in the way of every significant legislative measure they plan to bring to the floor in June. The list includes an election and voting overhaul measure, possible gun control legislation, and a bill to ensure LGBTQ rights.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, called the legislative lineup “a series of totally partisan bills designed to get no Republican support.”

Most Democrats in the Senate want to end the filibuster, which they can accomplish with a simple 51-vote majority. But a handful of Democratic lawmakers won’t vote to end the filibuster, the most vocal among them Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Democrats control only 50 votes, which means they must vote unanimously for Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tied Senate vote.

Manchin announced last week that he also opposes the election and voting rights measure that is considered the No. 1 legislative priority for Democrats in both chambers. The House passed the measure, named the For the People Act, earlier this year.

Democrats say the bill will make it easier to vote, curb “dark money” in elections, and counter efforts by some states to tighten voter integrity by requiring voter identification and cleaning up voter rolls.

In an op-ed published last week, Manchin said a bill that significantly rewrites campaign and election laws must be bipartisan.

“Congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward, or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials,” Manchin wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

His opposition has attracted growing criticism from impatient Democrats.

“Manchin’s op-ed might as well be titled, ‘Why I’ll vote to preserve Jim Crow,’” Rep. Mondaire Jones, a New York Democrat, tweeted this week.

“He is putting the idea of bipartisanship — which Republicans have long abandoned — ahead of passing the For The People Act and protecting our democracy,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat and the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told supporters in a fundraising email.

In the Senate, Democrats are putting pressure on Manchin, urging him to back the voting rights bill, which Schumer plans to put on the floor for a vote by the end of June.

“I’m hearing from all kinds of people,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

Manchin is fielding calls from senators and their staff while efforts are underway to reshape the bill in a way that alleviates Manchin’s hesitation. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said that talks between her staff and Manchin have been “productive,” but she added that “we have to see what he wants in the bill.”

Manchin could stand in the way of an effort to pass a key infrastructure bill by using a budgetary tactic that would circumvent the filibuster.

Democrats are plotting to pass part of their major infrastructure package with only 51 votes, but that would require the support of Manchin.

Manchin is seeking a bipartisan compromise and does not support a plan by Democrats to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

Manchin is now part of a gang of bipartisan senators working on a new infrastructure bill that does not raise taxes and pays for new projects in part by indexing the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents to inflation.

In the meantime, Democrats plan to keep putting legislation on the floor, even though much of it is destined to fail.

“We bring up bills, and we vote on them,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told the Washington Examiner when asked how the party plans to respond to the GOP filibuster.

Top leaders are also holding back from criticizing Manchin, who is suddenly one of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington.

“In a 50-50 Senate,” Durbin said, “everybody is the deciding vote.”

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Tags: News, Congress, Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, Democratic Party, Democrats, Infrastructure, Filibuster, Spending, Legislation

Original Author: Susan Ferrechio

Original Location: Democrats’ stalled agenda raises party tensions

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