Senate fails to change filibuster rules after GOP blocks voting rights bill

By Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:27 AM ET, Thu January 20, 2022
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9:03 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Senate Republicans block voting rights legislation

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats' attempt to pass a bill on voting rights legislation.

The legislation combined key provisions of two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

At least 10 Republicans needed to vote with Democrats to clear the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster, which did not happen amid widespread Republican opposition.

Next lawmakers will vote to change filibuster rules, which is expected to fail.

8:43 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

NOW: Senate voting to attempt to break GOP filibuster on voting legislation

From CNN's Clare Foran, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

The Senate is voting now to attempt to break a GOP filibuster of voting legislation that combines key provisions of two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

Senate Republicans are expected to block it. At least 10 Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to clear the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster, which will not happen amid widespread Republican opposition to the voting legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that if Republicans block the bill, he will hold a vote to change Senate rules to allow for a "talking filibuster" on the voting legislation and lower the threshold to break the filibuster from 60 votes to 51 votes.

That vote, which is expected to fail due to opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, is expected sometime later this evening, but has not yet been scheduled.

7:54 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Harris arrives on Capitol Hill to preside over voting rights debate

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett

Vice President Kamala Harris has arrived on Capitol Hill to preside over tonight’s debate on the Freedom to Vote Act.

As she entered the Capitol, Harris was asked if the elections would be illegitimate if the voting bills didn’t pass.

“Let’s get these bills passed before we have that conversation," Harris told CNN.

6:27 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Here's when a Senate vote on voting rights legislation could happen tonight

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Jessica Dean

Senate Minority Whip John Thune warned that it is likely a vote on voting rights legislation will slip into the 7 p.m. ET hour given the number of speeches and the fact that senators are going over their allotted speaking time. 

He predicted somewhere in the neighborhood of 7:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET.  

The vote is now expected around 7:45 p.m. ET per the Senate media gallery.

A vote on the rules change would happen after that. 

The latest guidance from CNN's Hill team is in 11 p.m. ET hour. 

6:15 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Romney blasts Democrats for attacking their own members on filibuster 

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah who has voted against his own leadership during momentous votes, told CNN that he has been surprised by Democratic members’ attacks of their own members as the filibuster fight has intensified. 

He said Sen. Joe Manchin is the “only” Democrat who could even get elected in West Virginia. 

“My colleagues did not criticize me or hang me out to dry when I had a vote or two particularly with regard to the impeachment of Donald Trump. They did not make my life difficult. They respected my vote on conscience. I am surprised to see people talk about bringing a primary against Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema. It’s like Joe Manchin is the only Democrat that could win in West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema is the kind of maverick that Arizonans love. It makes no sense to me at all to watch their own leadership attacking people they desperately need," he said.

Other Republicans also applauded Manchin’s speech in which he defended the filibuster. 

“You don’t see too many displays of true political courage around here, but I think both of them demonstrated with their speeches in the last few days that they get what is at stake and they are willing to put their political viability and futures on the line for it,” Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, said. 

Some context: Manchin warned against partisan division in a speech earlier Wednesday evening as Democrats press ahead to an expected vote to change Senate filibuster rules in an attempt to pass voting legislation.

The West Virginia Democrat has repeatedly said he will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation, creating an obstacle for his party as Senate Democrats push for a rules change.

CNN's Clare Foran, Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.

6:28 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Manchin admonishes Democrats' push to gut filibuster, calling it a "perilous course" for the nation

From CNN's Manu Raju

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

In a floor speech that occurred just as President Biden was speaking at his news conference, Sen. Joe Manchin, a key Democratic moderate, reiterated that he would not change the Senate's filibuster rules along straight party lines to let 51 votes advance legislation.

Manchin said he was speaking out against "a great misleading of the American people."

Manchin added: "For the last year, my Democratic colleagues have taken the airwaves, pages of newspapers across the country to argue that (eliminating) the filibuster is restoring the vision of the Founding Fathers intended for this country. That is simply not true."

He later said that "eliminating the filibuster would be easy way out...I cannot support such a perilous course for our nation ... It's time we do the hard work to forge the difficult compromises that can stand the test of time," he said, admonishing his colleagues.

He argued Democrats were trying to "break the rules to change the rules."

He also reiterated what he told CNN earlier: That Schumer shouldn't prematurely shut down debate on the elections and voting bill, saying it should be on the floor for weeks to build support for the bill.

6:26 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Schumer says he’ll put forward "talking filibuster" proposal once GOP blocks Democrats' elections bill

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett 

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave an impassioned floor speech earlier today as the Senate debated voting legislation for the first time in this Congress, and he reiterated that when GOP lawmakers block Democrats’ election legislation from advancing, he will put forward his proposal to allow for a "talking filibuster" on voting legislation.

“As we debate this issue, so critical to the wellspring of our democracy, we will all confront the critical question: Shall members of this chamber do what is necessary to pass these bills and move them to the President's desk? It’s my hope that courage awakens within the heart of our Republican colleagues before the day is out,” he said, adding that if the Senate cannot protect the right to vote, “then the Senate rules must be reformed.”

“Our proposal for a talking filibuster on these pieces of legislation would be the first step towards passing voting rights, restoring this body and breaking the gridlock that we now face on this vital issue,” Schumer continued.

As Schumer spoke, CNN counted about 30 Democrats in the Senate chamber, including the majority leader and Sen. Pat Leahy, who was presiding. No Republicans were in the chamber during his speech. It’s impactful, as Schumer’s daily morning speeches are typically given to an empty chamber. Sen. Joe Manchin, who is set to eventually vote against the nuclear option, was in the chamber, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema was not.  

Schumer repeated in his remarks that he knows “it’s an uphill fight” to change the Senate rules to pass election legislation as there are some in the caucus who believe the legislative filibuster “helps bring us together.”

He slammed that argument, saying, “I don't see that evidence, evidence of that at all, and I think a majority of my colleagues would agree with that.”

As the two moderate Democrats, Manchin and Sinema, remain opposed to lowering the threshold of the legislative filibuster, the vote to change the Senate rules is expected to fail. 

5:07 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

19 states passed 34 laws that restrict voting in some way in the last year, analysis shows

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten

Republicans aligned with former President Trump are pressing ahead at the state level to change voting procedures, conduct partisan investigations of the last presidential contest and seize more control over the machinery of elections.

Democrats and voting rights advocates warn that the unrelenting campaign to cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Biden's 2020 victory over Trump could erode voter confidence in elections and increase the chances that losing candidates and their supporters will challenge the results of free and fair elections in the future.

"Every day that goes by, I am more and more concerned about the direction and resilience of American democracy," said David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research. "I'm worried that we are heading down a path where there are those who cannot accept that ... their candidate could lose."

Recent polling underscores the peril. A CBS News-YouGov poll found that more than six in 10 of Americans said they now expect violence over the loss of future presidential elections. And a separate poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that about one in three Americans think violent action against the government is sometimes justified.

The Post-UMD poll also exposed a stark partisan divide: 40% of Republicans and 41% of Independents said violence against the government could be justified versus 23% of Democrats.

In the last year, 19 states passed 34 laws that restrict voting in some way, according to an analysis by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice. And more changes are expected as state legislatures convene early this year.

Brennan's analysis found 88 restrictive bills introduced last year will carry over into upcoming legislative sessions, and that 13 new bills had been pre-filed as of last month.

The new proposals include a measure that would ban the use of drop boxes in Georgia — where Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in 28 years. An Arizona lawmaker wants to establish stricter voter ID requirements.

Read more about where things stand on voting rights on the state level.

5:29 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Congressional Black Caucus marches to Senate to urge support on filibuster change

From CNN's Lauren Fox

In a show of support for voting rights and changing Senate rules to pass the legislation, House members in the Congressional Black Caucus marched to the Senate, warning that no matter what happens today, they won’t stop fighting to pass it.

“We want the Senate to act today in a favorable way, but if they don’t, we ain’t giving up. I am too young to give up,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, the no.3 House Democrat in the House, told CNN.

CNN asked Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio, if she backed primary challenges against moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

“I think today we support voting rights. Today, we want to make sure that 52 senators are asked that question. Today is not about primary races. Today, we came here to singly focus on voting rights and only talk about voting rights,” Beatty said.