Will Democrats win big?
As was expected, Senate Democrats forced two votes on Wednesday (January 19) and lost both. Democrats knew they’d be unable to pass the election bills and the vote on the filibuster, breaking rule legislators –– including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi –– have followed religiously: never call a vote you don’t know you’ll win.
Speaking on the loss, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats had no regrets over the failed attempt, saying it would help them in the midterms.
Acknowledging the loss, Schumer said not voting “would have been a far greater loss. Before adding that “history” sided with “voting rights” that forced leaders to take a stand that would “move the ball forward.”
He went on to describe the votes as “unusual and exhilarating” because Democrats knew they were fighting “the good fight.”
Following Senators Sinema and Manchin declaring opposition to changing the 60-vote threshold for the filibuster, it was unsurprising when Democrats failed to clear the first vote of the night as both Democrat Senators sided with Republicans, leveling a 52-48 defeat against Democrats.
But many believe the push to take the vote, despite a confirmed loss, was part of a broader plan by Democrats to secure success in the midterm elections.
Speaking on the matter, James Wallner, R Street Institute senior fellow for governance said, “Democrats clearly have a goal in mind and that is to pass Republicans as opposed to voting rights legislation, and then they hope to run on that in November.”
He added that given the circumstances, the vote was more about messaging than a “serious” attempt to pass voting legislation, saying “they had options at their disposal that they didn’t use.”
Wallner pointed to options like putting the bill on the floor to attempt to make inroads in the GOP floor filibuster, possibly amending the bills, conducting lengthy speeches, and procedural motions Democrats would need to defeat.
In a tweet on his official campaign account, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR.) seemed to agree with the sentiment that the vote was more about the midterm than a serious pursuit of voting rights.
“I know you’re angry and frustrated at voting rights legislation not passing in the Senate. I am too. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep fighting as long as I’m in the Senate,” continuing his statements, “I’m also going to work to expand our Senate majority. 50 Democrats in the Senate is NOT enough!”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, also noted in an interview with CNN that the move to pass the vote was a political one. Sanders mentioned winning the midterms would require Democrats to induce “energy and excitement” from voters by having “the courage to take on the powerful special interests and fight for their needs.” He continued saying that by doing that, “the fundamental differences between the two parties will become crystal clear. That’s how you win elections.”