Some Democrats mull forcing GOP into talking filibuster to pass voting rights package

Several Democrats have hopped aboard with the idea of forcing Republicans to physically hold the floor if they wish to block the voting rights bill

Updated: January 18, 2022 - 2:40pm

Senate Democrats are rushing to figure out a back-up plan to somehow pass a voting rights package without needing to overturn the legislative filibuster.

The combination package is expected to meet its end when GOP senators use the filibuster to prevent its passage. 

Democrats, who have not been able to sway Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, to support changing the rules of the filibuster, are now discussing a novel approach to possible skirting the Republican filibuster that could lead to a 51-vote passage of the voting rights package.

The Democrats, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine among them, are thinking about the possibility of forcing their GOP colleagues to physically remain on the floor delivering speeches and procedural motions if they wish to filibuster.

"There are a couple of paths here. Do we go down the path and do a long debate until it's done and then have a simple debate?" Kaine said last week.  

"We wouldn't need a rules change to pass the bill by simple majority if the debate is over. Theoretically, you do not need a rules change to pass a bill that's on the floor, you just have to allow debate to occur," he continued. "If a minority wants to block the action of a majority, then the minority must take and hold the floor to try to convince colleagues [and] the American public the majority is going in the wrong direction."

The plan would be for Senate Republicans to eventually tire themselves out after days or perhaps even weeks on the floor, and that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would then be able to call for a simple-majority vote on the final passage of the bill, thus skipping the formal procedural vote, which is what would require a 60-vote threshold.

It is unclear how the novel approach would play out on the floor, nothing like it has occurred in decades and a number of complex Senate rules would need to play out in favor of the Democrats to force a win that could take weeks and weeks to accomplish.