The US Senate prepares for an intense debate on the right to vote.
The leader of the Democratic faction announced that he had found a way to evade the blockade that the Republicans had imposed until now. President Biden said Senate rules need to be changed to protect democracy.
The leader of the Democratic majority in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, laid the foundations on Wednesday for a debate in the Upper House on the right to vote in the country. However, it will be challenging to overcome the fierce Republican opposition to election reform.
A day after US President Joe Biden urged his party to "protect democracy" in the face of increasing voting restrictions passed at the state level, Democrats began moving chips on the issue in the Senate.
In a letter sent to his colleagues, Schumer announced that he found a way to circumvent the blockade that Republicans had so far imposed on any debate in the full Senate on two bills designed to strengthen the right to vote at the national level.
"The Senate will finally debate the legislation on the right to vote, and then each senator will have to decide whether to pass that legislation to protect our democracy," the Democratic leader wrote, according to the letter obtained by various media.
To sidestep the 60-vote requirement needed to start debate on a measure, the Democratic-majority lower house will amend a different bill this week, which has to do with NASA, to add the text of one of the electoral reform proposals.
By using this mechanism, the Democrats - who control 50 seats in the Senate - will only need a simple majority of 51 votes to initiate the debate on the issue, although to approve it, they would need the support of 60 senators, something that Schumer himself acknowledged that "It will not happen."
The alternative, backed by Biden, is to change the Senate rules to get the electoral reform passed by a simple majority, with the votes of Democratic senators and the runoff of Vice President Kamala Harris, who heads the chamber.
According to Schumer, the debate on electoral reform could be followed by an attempt to change those norms. However, this will require absolute unity in the Democratic ranks, and at least two senators have expressed doubts about it.
To advance that goal, Biden will meet this Thursday afternoon with Democratic senators to try to convince them that it is "urgent" to change the rules of the Senate to approve electoral reform, according to the White House.
The reason for this urgency is that, according to the Democrats, the Republican Party is preparing the ground at the state level to make it difficult to vote in the subsequent electoral cycles and, thus, potentially reverse a result that does not favor them in the legislative elections of this year and the presidential elections of 2024.
Biden's request to change the Senate rules has irritated the Republican leader in that chamber, Mitch McConnell, who this Wednesday accused him in a speech of behaving in a "non-presidential" manner and of not being "at the height of his office.".