Facing stark criticism from civil rights leaders, senators return to Capitol Hill under intense pressure to change their rules and break a Republican filibuster that has hopelessly stalled voting legislation. The Senate is set to launch debate Tuesday on the voting bill with attention focused intently on two pivotal Democrats — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona & Joe Manchin of West Virginia — who were singled out with a barrage of criticism during Martin Luther King Jr. Day events for their refusal to change what civil rights leaders call the “Jim Crow filibuster.”
Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, compared Sinema & Manchin to the white moderate his father wrote about during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s — a person who declared support for the goals of Black voting rights but not the direct actions or demonstrations that ultimately led to passage of the landmark legislation.
“History will not remember them kindly,” the younger King said, referring to Sinema & Manchin by name.
This will be the fifth time the Senate will try to pass voting legislation this Congress, as elections officials warn that new state laws are making it more difficult to vote in some parts of the country.
The House has passed the package, but the legislation is stalled in the Senate, opposed by Republicans. With a 50-50 split, Democrats have a narrow Senate majority — Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie — but they lack the 60 votes needed to overcome the GOP filibuster.
Once reluctant to change Senate rules, President Joe Biden used the King holiday to pressure senators to do just that. But the push from the White House, including Biden’s blistering speech last week in Atlanta comparing opponents to segregationists, is seen as too late, coming as the president ends his first year in office with his popularity sagging.
“It’s time for every elected official in America to make it clear where they stand,” Biden said on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “It’s time for every American to stand up. Speak out, be heard. Where do you stand?”
Sinema, Manchin slammed as Senate begins voting bill debate Associated Press