The problem? It’s not going to become law or even come up for debate in the Senate — despite the fact that Democrats hold the majority in the chamber. And that’s because of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics,” Manchin wrote. “Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner.” He later added in that same piece: “I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
And assuming that both Manchin and Sinema stick to their positions, the John Lewis Act will never become law. Democrats can’t change the Senate rules to abolish the legislative filibuster unless all 50 of their senators (and the two independents who caucus with them) support such a rule change. And, for the foreseeable future, they have only 48 votes.
The whole thing is likely to play out this way:
1. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will make clear that passing the law is of critical important to protecting the sanctity of the vote, leaning on moderate Republicans to join Democrats on a cloture vote that would lead to a final up-or-down choice on the legislation
2. A handful — maybe! — of Senate Republicans will side with Schumer. At the moment, by the way, only Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has said she supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The chances 10 Republicans cross the aisle to join with all 50 Democrats? Roughly 0%.
3. Schumer will go to Manchin and Sinema — as will every Capitol Hill reporter — and ask them if they are willing to carve out an exception for this voting rights measure. They will say “no,” arguing that you can’t open Pandora’s box and then quickly shut it again (On that point, they are 100% right).
4. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will be, legislatively speaking, done.