President Joe Biden visits the US Congress this Thursday. Oliver Contreras / POOL (EFE)
The leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, managed this Wednesday that the electoral reform bill passed a vote in the Upper House and scored a victory against filibusterism, an anachronism of American politics that imposes the need of a qualified majority in the votes in that chamber to pass legislation. The veteran Democrat achieved it by circumventing that figure with a parliamentary trick. It was worth little. The rejection of two Democratic senators, the centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, to change the rules of the game and allow the electoral reform to go ahead with a simple majority (and not 60 votes), left one of Joe's star reforms mortally wounded. Biden.
Schumer told the ranks of his party that he was going to include in the vote to amend a different bill—related to NASA's authority to lease its facilities—the John Lewis Act to Advance Voting Rights and the Liberty Act. for vote. Before noon on Wednesday, the Chamber gave its approval to the amendment and therefore to pass the electoral reform law to a vote, before next Monday, a holiday that commemorates the life of Martin Luther King.
The battle then remained in the hands of the Senate, divided 50% between Democrats and Republicans but which has the tie-breaking quality vote of the US vice president, Democrat Kamala Harris. Although, once again, the Democratic Party and the legislative will of the president, was kidnapped by Manchin and Sinema. The ruse used by the veteran Schumer, who knows very well that he does not have 60 votes to approve this legislation in the Senate, was designed so that each senator had to express his agreement or disagreement with the reform of the right to vote in the United States and so recorded in the minutes. The importance of that vote was reflected in the words of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat Nancy Pelosi: “Nothing less than our democracy is at stake,” she said. The brooch was placed by the cunning Schumer,declaring, “So finally a debate on voting rights legislation will take place for the first time in this Congress.”
However, Schumer's ruse would prove useless and revealed the torn seams of the Democratic Party when the two loose verses of that party in the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, announced that they would vote against it as a denunciation of what they considered a scheme to avoid filibustering. In the morning, Schumer declared that, with his handling of the frustrating situation imposed by the need for three-fifths, it was possible to achieve "debate by simple majority", something that, in his opinion, has been denied "four times in the last months because Republicans didn't want to move forward." "Every senator will have to choose whether or not to pass this legislation to protect our democracy," the Democrat said.
If last Wednesday the White House transferred the political scene to Georgia, with all the packaging that the presidency gives, promulgating a speech calling for the defense of democracy through the strengthening of voting laws, this Thursday Joe Biden toured the short space that separates the official residence from the Capitol to put pressure on Democratic senators and get everyone on the same page. Such a symbolic visit was worth nothing. Even before the president set foot in Congress, Sinema assured that he would vote against. After their meeting, in brief statements, the US president was forced to save face by simply saying that he believed an agreement could be reached but that he was "not sure."
With a week to go before he completes a year in office, Biden's approval rating among public opinion is below 40% and Republicans seem better positioned every day to wrest control of Congress from Democrats in the midterm elections. mandate to be held in November. The presidential attrition in this matter is monumental. Even as he went on the offensive, Biden's words from just two days ago seemed hollow on Thursday.
“I will not back down. I will not hesitate. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against enemies from within and without,” the Democrat declared last Tuesday at Clarke University in Atlanta. Biden, who was a senator for 36 years, resisted throughout his career in the upper house to touch the entrenched parliamentary custom of filibustering. However, with 19 States of the Union that approved 34 laws last year that hinder access to the vote for minorities in general, but especially for blacks, the president declared in July the fight against the restrictive rules of the Republicans as “ the most significant test facing American democracy since the Civil War."
For the US president, "the battle for the soul of America is not over."
With several references to the first anniversary of the assault on the Capitol, which turned one year old last week, the president made it clear in his speech at the cradle of civil rights that democracy is not guaranteed if the vote is not protected.
"This is the time to decide, to defend our elections and our democracy," said the Democrat.
“There will be no other option but to change the rules of the Senate, including ending filibustering,” warned Biden, who almost spelled out: “I support changing Senate rules.”
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS América
and receive all the informational keys of the current situation in the region