By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled to Republicans on Tuesday that if they block an upcoming election reform bill, he will look for a path around the chamber’s filibuster rule to try to pass it with only Democratic support.
Schumer noted that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate who wields great power to advance or block legislation in the narrowly divided chamber, has signed on to try to secure Republican support.
Congressional Democrats are reacting to at least 18 Republican-led states that have enacted laws restricting voting access this year, following Republican former President Donald Trump’s false claims the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.
“We’re going to take action to make sure we protect our democracy and fight against the disease of voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and election subversion that is metastasizing at the state level,” Schumer said.
Bypassing Republicans would likely require altering or abandoning the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 of the chamber’s 100 members to agree on most legislation. Manchin has repeatedly objected to any change to the filibuster, but some Democrats have said a failure to secure Republican backing for the voting rights act could change his mind.
“As Senator Manchin said earlier this year regarding congressional action on voting rights, inaction is not an option,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “I agree with Senator Manchin in that regard.”
In recent years, the Senate has eliminated the filibuster rule on executive branch nominations, including presidential picks for the U.S. Supreme Court.
That resulted in Trump being able to name three conservative justices to the high court amid staunch Democratic opposition.
In June, all 50 Senate Republicans blocked an ambitious voting rights bill. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday slammed the door on the new bill.
He rejected the notion it was truly a compromise, calling it “the same Frankenstein’s monster” and adding in a Tuesday speech, “The substance is not really changing, so neither will the result.”
Schumer has not yet set a date for forcing a vote on a Democratic bill, saying Manchin was still trying to attract some Republican support for it.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Chris Reese)