Fail flail: Schumer's super-secret plan to pass voting bill has one problem

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

It has several, actually, but Punchbowl hits the main obstacle to Chuck Schumer’s machinations on SB1. With the Senate stalled on the Democrats’ up-front attempt to pass it through majoritarian brute force, the Senate Majority Leader plans to use some sleight of hand to get … pretty much to the same place he is now.

Schumer wants to take a page out of the Obamacare strategy playbook, but without enough players on the field:

Under this new plan – which is still just under consideration, it hasn’t been agreed to yet – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats would use this NASA bill as a shell, strip out the existing language and insert the Freedom to Vote Act instead. The House would then pass this revised bill and send it onto the Senate. Since it’s a “message” between the House and Senate, there’s no filibuster on the motion to proceed to the legislation. That means the Senate could take it up quickly.

Senate Republicans will still filibuster the underlying bill and Schumer would have to file cloture in order to cut off debate and force a vote. That hasn’t changed. So, in sum, a GOP filibuster still has to be overcome, but there’s only one cloture vote, compared to two with a regular bill.

Yet the advantage of this proposed plan is that Schumer would be filing cloture on a voting rights bill that’s already been adopted by the House, instead of the Senate-only version of the legislation. Thus when Republicans filibuster the measure, they’d be blocking a bill that just needs Senate approval in order to head to the president’s desk. It’s a distinction with a difference.

Actually it’s a distinction without a difference, in two different ways. First, the House would be no obstacle to getting SB1 up to Joe Biden’s desk for a signature. The effort for the House to gut the minor NASA legislation and use it as a shell for the two election-federalizing bills proves that the stall is in the Senate, not the House. That’s barely a distinction, let alone a difference.

Second, all this does it present Schumer with yet another path to failure. In fact, it might even make it worse by attempting to combine the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement bills, because Joe Manchin actually opposes the latter as legislation, not just on the basis of the filibuster. The combined bill won’t even get to 50 votes, let alone 60, which would make the filibuster less of a political focus when the whole thing comes crashing down.

And, as Punchbowl notes, it’s still subject to the filibuster, and Schumer doesn’t have 50 votes plus Kamala Harris to execute the nuclear option. He likely has fewer than 48 votes, in fact, perhaps as few as 45. All this does is allow Schumer to close debate and attempt to take a floor vote on the legislation, which still won’t happen thanks to a filibuster he can’t overcome thanks to the even split in the Senate. This too is a distinction without a difference, since the vote on the filibuster won’t change and the bill will still fail.

So what does Schumer, Pelosi, and Biden gain from stoking expectations on these bills? Punchbowl scratches its collective head on that question, as it will only add to a growing list of policy and legislative failures:

Despite control of the House and Senate – by razor-thin margins, admittedly – and having Biden in the Oval Office, the key elements of the progressive agenda are stalled, which is causing growing unrest on the left. Just ask Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Just wait until the December report on the Consumer Price Index comes out at 8:30 this morning. Voters will not just get the sense that Biden and Democrats have failed on every priority they have in their daily lives, but that Schumer and Biden are so desperate to distract from those failures that they’re willing to stage a more spectacular failure to keep people from discussing COVID, grocery shortages, rising fuel prices, and the inflationary wave that has wiped out the incremental wage gains workers have seen under Biden.