The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a set of two voting rights bills ahead of a Senate showdown over the filibuster, The New York Times reports.
The House voted 220-203 down party lines to pass the legislation, which combines the Democrats sweeping Freedom to Vote Act with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The House previously passed voting rights legislation only to see it filibustered by Republicans in the Senate.
Democrats cited a rash of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states and aggressive Republican gerrymanders to highlight the urgency of passing the legislation ahead of the 2022 midterms.
“There are people who don’t want you to vote and they are using every tool in the toolbox to make it harder,” said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schutz. “Voter suppression has not been consigned to the history books. It is here today, right now.”
Schumer uses loophole to speed up bill:
Democrats plan to use a loophole that would allow them to debate the bill in the Senate for the first time after Republicans used the filibuster four times to block debate on the bill.
The House inserted the bills into an unrelated NASA bill and stripped out the original legislation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to file a motion concurring with the House amendment, allowing the Senate to debate the bill for the first time.
But despite advancing the bill to a debate, Democrats still cannot pass the legislation without changing the filibuster rules, which some Democrats have opposed.
Without changing the filibuster, Democrats will be unable to pass the legislation unless they get 60 votes to end debate.
Obama backs filibuster changes:
One day after President Joe Biden gave a major speech backing filibuster changes to pass voting rights legislation against the opposition of Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, former President Barack Obama said the rule changes are necessary to preserve democracy.
The filibuster has “no basis in the Constitution,” he wrote in a USA Today op-ed. “In recent years, the filibuster became a routine way for the Senate minority to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters. But we can’t allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy.”
“That’s why I fully support President Joe Biden’s call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote,” he added. “And every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the president’s call as well.”