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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11:10 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Sinema reiterates opposition to eliminating filibuster, saying it would "deepen our divisions"

Moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reiterated in a statement why she opposed the Senate rules change that would eliminate the filibuster.

"I also maintained my longstanding opposition to separate actions that would deepen our divisions and risk repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty and further eroding confidence in our government," Sinema said in a statement after Senate Democrats failed in their effort to use the “nuclear option” to change filibuster rules.

The Arizona senator along with Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, were the only Democrats to vote the rules change.

"Tonight's votes must not be the end of our work to protect our democracy. That goal requires all Americans everywhere to unite around sustained strategies in support of free, fair, and open elections in which every vote is fairly counted. These challenges cannot be solved by one party or Washington alone."

11:10 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Democrats fail to use "nuclear option" to change Senate filibuster rules to pass voting legislation

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

Senate Democrats failed in their effort to use the “nuclear option” to change filibuster rules to allow for a “talking filibuster” on the voting legislation that Republicans blocked earlier this evening. 

The vote was 52-48 with moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema voting with Republicans. After the vote failed, there was a loud round of applause from Republicans. 

The proposed rules change would force lawmakers who want to filibuster the bill to come to the Senate floor and speak in opposition.

Once those speeches come to an end, the Senate would be able to hold a simple majority vote for final passage. The move would effectively eliminate the 60-vote threshold set by the filibuster.

It had been expected to fail due to opposition from Manchin and Sinema.

11:16 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Senate voting now on "nuclear option" for rules change on filibuster

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

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

The Senate is now holding a vote to attempt to change filibuster rules to allow for a “talking filibuster” on the voting legislation that Republicans just blocked. 

The proposed rules change would force lawmakers who want to filibuster the bill to come to the Senate floor and speak in opposition. Once those speeches come to an end, the Senate would be able to hold a simple majority vote for final passage. The move would effectively eliminate the 60-vote threshold set by the filibuster.  

The vote is expected to fail due to opposition from moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

9:50 p.m. ET, January 19, 2022

Harris on Senate GOP blocking voting legislation: "This is a historic night"

(Pool)
(Pool)

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke after Republicans blocked Democrats’ voting legislation, calling it a "historic night."

“History is going to record and watch certainly, the votes that are taking place," Harris told reporters on Capitol Hill.

"This is about the fundamental freedom to vote and what should unfettered access to the ballot. I am here to make a strong statement that this is, whatever happens tonight from the outcome of this vote, the President and I are not going to give up on this issue. This is fundamental to our democracy and it's non-negotiable."

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.