The majority (D) leadership in the U.S. Senate made a valiant effort this week to enact voting rights reform, packaging together two bills — both of which had already been passed (separately) by the House of Representatives — and then trying to win a mere-majority vote rule change that would have allowed a mere majority to determine the fate of voting rights in the country at large. The unity of all 50 Republicans in opposition, and the determination of two dissident Democrats to leave the filibuster untouched, together defeated the effort.
For the last year the two parties have exactly split the organization of the U.S. Senate: 50/50. Since the Vice President of the United States is entitled to preside over the Senate and to vote in cases of a tie: the Democrats control 51-50 on matters that can be decided by a mere majority, and where all votes follow party lines. That is what happened with the vote on “organizing the Senate” at the beginning of this legislative session, which is why all the committees of the body are chaired by a member of that caucus.
The Thing to Know:
Voting rights, bills, though, cannot under existing Senate rules be enacted by a mere majority: they require support of 60 senators. Further, a decision to change that rule and allow a filibuster-proof debate and vote on a voting rights would allow the unanimous cooperation of all 50 Democratic Senators, plus of course VP Harris. So on Jan./ 19 it was the two non-cooperating Senators, Joe Manchin (D – W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema ( D – Ariz.) who proved fatal to filibuster reform on the one hand and the voting rights bill on the other.