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Saturday, February 4, 2023
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As Hopes of Keeping Majority Fade, Dems Resurrect Controversial ‘Power Grab’ Bill

'Every time that Washington Democrats make a few changes around the margins and come back for more bites at the same apple, we know exactly what they are trying to do...'

(Headline USA) If at first you don’t succeed, make Republicans vote again.

That’s the strategy Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, appears to be pursuing as the New York Democrat forced another test vote Wednesday on controversial legislation to overhaul the nation’s election laws.

For the fourth time since June, Republicans blocked it.

Democrats entered the year with razor-thin control of Washington and a desire to consolidate their stranglehold on power by codifying many of the so-called emergency measures that several blue states put into place—in some cases illegally—under the auspices of the pandemic.

To do so, it was necessary that they counteract a wave of restrictive new voting laws in Republican-led states, many of which were sparked by the vote fraud that transpired as a result of relaxed election procedures.

It is unclear, however, whether Schumer and his fellow Democrats ever saw any possibility of succeeding in their partisan effort while ratcheting up the political rhetoric against their political adversaries by accusing them of supporting “Jim Crow” for enacting common-sense election-integrity measures.

Instead, the political stunt has given way to a grinding series of doomed votes that are meant to highlight Republican opposition. But they have done little to advance a cause that is a top priority for the party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, in which they see little hope of winning on issues alone without enacting their vote-rigging measures.

The Senate voted against debating voting legislation Wednesday, with Republicans this time filibustering a Democrat-led attempt to exploit the landmark 1960s era Voting Rights Act in order to enact their desperate “power grab.”

“This is a low, low point in the history of this body,” Schumer said after the failed vote, later adding, “The Senate is better than this.”

The stalemate is forcing a reckoning among Senate Democrats about whether to make changes to the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes for legislation to advance. That could allow them to muscle legislation through, but would almost certainly come back to bite them if and when Republicans take back control of the chamber.

Earlier Wednesday, Schumer met with a group of vulnerable red-state Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Angus King of Maine and Tim Kaine of Virginia, for a “family discussion” about steps that could be taken to maneuver around Republicans. That’s according to a senior aide who requested anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

But it’s also a move opposed by moderate Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Without their support, Democrats won’t have the votes needed to make a change. And at worst—alienating the two pivotal senators could force them out of the party altogether, delivering a filibuster-proof majority to Republicans even before next year’s midterm elections.

Time is ticking down. Redistricting of congressional districts (a once-in-a-decade process Democrats want to overhaul) is already underway. And the Senate poised to split town next week for a home-state work period.

“Senate Democrats should stay in town and focus on the last act in this battle,” said Fred Wertheimer, who leads the left-wing activist group Democracy 21.

The latest measure blocked by Republicans Wednesday is different from an earlier voting bill from Democrats that would have touched on every aspect of the electoral process.

It has a narrower focus and would restore the Justice Department’s ability to police voting laws in states with a history of discrimination.

However, recent overtures by the Justice Department to act as a partisan attack-dog for Democrats—for example, colluding with the White House and the National School Board Association to label concerned parents as “domestic terrorists”—has inspired little confidence in the politicized department’s ability to oversee the election process.

The measure drew the support of one Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, after Democrats agreed to make changes that she sought. But all other Republicans opposed opening debate on the bill.

“Every time that Washington Democrats make a few changes around the margins and come back for more bites at the same apple, we know exactly what they are trying to do,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who slammed the vote as “political theatre” on a trumped-up a “go-nowhere bill.”

Murkowski, too, said she still had underlying issues with the bill as written, while criticizing Schumer’s decision to force repeated “show votes.”

“Lets give ourselves the space to work across the aisle,” she said Wednesday. “Our goal should be to avoid a partisan bill, not to take failing votes over and over.”

The Democrats’ John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late Georgia congressman who made the issue a defining one of his career, would re-impose federal oversight on several mostly red states that previously practiced segregation and other discriminatory laws.

The Supreme Court shot down the law in 2013, determining it to be obsolete and unfairly punitive. That allowed the states to enact voting laws without seeking federal approval, much to the chagrin of the leftists in charge.

Under the proposal, the Justice Department would again police new changes to voting laws in states that have racked up a series of “violations,” drawing them into a mandatory review process known as “preclearance.”

Though the GOP has shown no indication that its opposition will waver, there are signs that some of the voting changes Democrats seek aren’t as electorally advantageous for the party as some hope.

Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia’s Tuesday gubernatorial election offers the latest test case.

Democrats took control of all parts of Virginia’s government in 2019 and steadily started radicalizing the state’s voting laws. They required a 45-day window for early voting, among the longest in the country, and made it easier to sue for blocking ballot access.

But those changes didn’t hurt Youngkin, who comfortably beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

“Are we all reading the tea leaves from Virginia? Yes, absolutely,” Murkowski said. “Will it be something colleagues look to? It’s just one example.”

Democratic frustration is growing, meanwhile leading to increasingly vocal calls to change the filibuster.

“We can’t even debate basic bills,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat. “The next step is to work on ideas to restore the Senate.”

Ironically, Democrats vocally opposed the idea just four years ago when Republicans controlled the Senate and Donald Trump was president.

They are likely to quickly change their rhetoric when the power dynamic turns against them, should they fail to secure permanent majorities with their power-grab bill.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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