There’s a sense of panic setting in among Congressional Democrats in the wake of President Joe Biden’s inflammatory speech about passing the two currently pending bills allegedly aimed at securing “voting rights.” Over at The Hill, the pair of measures were described last night as being “on the brink of defeat.” But like a magician who remains confident that he still has a couple more rabbits stuffed in his hat, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is cooking up a new plan to try to advance the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Unable to attract any GOP support for the measures and without the votes in his own party to torpedo the filibuster, Schumer is reportedly planning to attempt an end run to get around those barriers. The scheme, which has been used before with other proposals, involves having the House use what’s known as a “shell bill” to shoehorn the measures through, sending the new package to the Senate in the form of a “question,” where debate could begin to concur with the measure. (Axios)
Democratic leaders have found a mechanism to enable them to bypass an initial Republican filibuster and debate the party’s sweeping election reform bills, according to a new leadership memo obtained by Axios…
Driving the news: The House is expected to take up an amendment in the coming days related to NASA leasing “underutilized” property to private groups. Democratic leaders are referring to this as the “shell bill.”
The use of the term “shell bill” is appropriate because what the Democrats are attempting is more akin to a shell game practiced by street hustlers than any sort of routine legislative process. Similar to the way that Democrats have repeatedly attempted to abuse the reconciliation process to force the BBB bill through, this strategy abuses another rule that was intended to streamline the consideration of bills that have broad support but include additional amendments that require the approval of both chambers.
In this case, a bill dealing with the rather mundane issue of NASA leasing out some property it no longer uses to commercial spacefaring entities will be turned into something entirely different. The bill, which probably would have passed into law without much discussion, will have all of its original, relevant langue stripped out as an “amendment,” to be replaced with the full text of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The completely rewritten legislation, hiding under the guise of being an “amendment,” can then be sent to the Senate as “a message,” where the “amendment” can be advanced to the floor for debate with only a simple majority vote. So if the Democrats can get both Manchin and Sinema to go along with this scheme and bring in Kamala Harris to break the tie, the bill will reach the floor for debate.
This is the same tactic that was used last year for both the debt limit increase and the National Defense Authorization Act. I was a fan of the NDAA and recognized the need to pass it, but that was still a very dodgy way to push it through.
The problem with this plan is that it would only move the legislation to the point where it’s up for debate. At that point, the Senators can debate it to their hearts’ content, but it will still require sixty votes to end debate and move forward to a vote. Then they’ll be right back where they started. Unless they can torpedo the filibuster, there’s no way that they will get anywhere near 60.
In fact, there are serious questions as to whether or not they could even get fifty. These bills would do things like eliminating all voter ID laws in the country, laws that remain very popular with the voters in some states where vulnerable Democratic Senators will have to go home and explain this to their constituents. As Axios put it, there will be “insufficient support to change the 60-vote threshold needed to pass sweeping voting rights reforms.”
How many times do we need to see these tricks before everyone admits that the Democrats are just desperate and cheating? As I said, this is the same tactic they’ve been trying to use to warp the reconciliation process to pass Biden’s BBB act. And the Senate Parliamentarian has shot them down so many times that she’s becoming hoarse from yelling at them. That NASA bill was originally written with honest intentions and likely could have been signed into law. Now it’s being turned into a tool to pull off a con job. It’s all very disheartening.