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Senate Delays MLK Holiday Recess to Take Up Voting Rights Bill On Tuesday

Senate Delays MLK Holiday Recess to Take Up Voting Rights Bill On Tuesday

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Thursday evening the Senate will delay its scheduled January recess and take up voting legislation on Tuesday despite major obstacles that appear to have closed off a path for Democrats to achieve that ambition.

Schumer delayed the vote — which he’d pledged to hold by the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday — citing Covid-19 and an impending winter storm. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) announced on Thursday that he had tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week, which complicated the Democrats’ voting timeline.

The voting announcement comes after President Joe Biden had vowed to keep fighting on voting rights during a visit to Capitol Hill earlier Thursday, but conceded that even he doesn’t know if Democrats will be able to pass legislation they are pushing for. The President met with influential moderates Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) on Thursday evening in a push for the passage of voting legislation. President Biden had “a candid and respectful exchange of views about voting rights” with the two senators, according to a statement from a White House official later that night.

The problem facing Democrats is that they don’t have the votes to pass voting legislation under current Senate rules due to Republican opposition, and they also do not appear to have the votes to change the rules. Both Manchin and Sinema had made clear publicly earlier in the day that there had been no change in their position against changing Senate rules to clear the way for voting legislation to pass with a simple majority. Each met with major criticisms from Twitter users.

If the GOP blocks the election bill from advancing, as is anticipated, Schumer said the chamber will vote on a change to the Senate rules, which is also expected to be challenged by obstructive Republicans. “Make no mistake, the United States Senate will for the first time in this Congress debate voting rights legislation beginning on Tuesday,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

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