Friday, February 26, 2021

Priorities One And Two


There are two legislative priorities that are absolute musts for Democrats to pass:  the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and comprehensive voting rights legislation.  Both efforts have garnered near- universal opposition by bad faith Republicans anxious to sink the Obama Biden Administration and put the country back on the white nationalist, proto- fascist Trumpist road it was on when they held power.

The wildly popular COVID Relief bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives today via budget reconciliation with no Republican votes. It then goes to the Senate where it will face the same wall of bad faith Republican opposition.  With the Senate Parliamentarian ruling against including the $15 minimum wage that was causing some conservaDems heartburn (assuming she's not overruled), chances of passage on a party- line vote have increased somewhat.  The House will have to vote on any changes made by the Senate, but the bill is expected to pass before mid- March.

As we witness gerrymandered State legislatures controlled by Republicans begin to introduce and pass a flood of voter suppression laws based on Trump's bogus "Big Lie" assertions about voter fraud, it's becoming more imperative than ever that the right to vote is enhanced and protected.  The vehicles for that are H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  Since the budget reconciliation process (which requires only a majority vote) isn't possible for passage of these bills, Republicans will use the filibuster in the Senate to try to kill them... unless Democrats act to change the Senate rules to allow these democracy- defending bills to be voted on.  It's possible for this to happen in such a way that it mollifies objections by conservaDems like Sens. Manchin and Sinema, by weakening rather than abolishing the filibuster outright.  Ian Millhiser points to several options:

  • Make fewer bills subject to the filibuster: The Senate can create carveouts and exempt certain matters from the filibuster altogether, as it does with bills subject to the reconciliation process.
  • Reduce the power of individual rogue senators: The Senate could make it harder to initiate a filibuster. Right now, unanimous consent is required to hold a vote without invoking the time-consuming cloture process. But the rules could be changed to allow an immediate vote unless a larger bloc of senators — perhaps two or five or 10 — objected to such a vote, instead of just one.
  • Make it easier to break a filibuster: The Senate could reduce the number of votes necessary to invoke cloture. This could be done as an across-the-board reform, like the 1975 change to the filibuster rule that reduced the cloture threshold from 67 to 60. Or it could be done by creating a carveout for certain matters, such as the 2013 and 2017 reforms that allowed presidential nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority vote.
  • Reduce or eliminate the time it takes to invoke cloture: The Senate could reduce the amount of time necessary to invoke cloture and conduct a final vote. This could be done by allowing a swifter vote on a cloture petition, by reducing or eliminating the time devoted to post-closure debate, or both.

By the way, support for voting reforms is also very popular, besides being the right thing to do:



However it is done, the voting rights measures must pass soon. If not, the election rigging going on in many states by the proto- fascist Republican party will ensure their return to power and the end of what's left of our democracy.

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