Senate Democrats look to Jan. 6 anniversary to push election reform

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(WASHINGTON) — Senate Democrats are using the impending one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to put a fine point on their efforts to shore up the nation’s election system.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in floor remarks Tuesday, said the same misinformation and malice that led a mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election to storm the Capitol is fueling voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled statehouses.

“As we remember January 6 this week and as we confront state level voter suppression, we must be clear they are not isolated developments. They are all directly linked to the same anti-Democratic poison of the big lie,” Schumer said, referencing misinformation about the election results espoused by former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters.

Democrats have for months been trying to push some sort of voting reform through the chamber, citing research from the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan independent organization that analyzes election rules, that found that 19 states have enacted 33 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote.

But those legislative efforts have faced an unrelenting blockade from Republicans, who oppose federal election reform because they say it is unnecessary and takes power away from the states to control their own elections.

“There’s been a lot of talk about big lies, the big lie on the other side is that state legislators controlled by Republicans are trying to make it difficult for people to vote,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a press conference Tuesday. “If you actually read the legislation that has been passed that’s clearly not the case.”

On Jan. 6, ABC News Live will provide all-day coverage of events marking one year since the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the continuing fallout for American democracy.

Multiple attempts at passing legislation have fizzled because of the Senate filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to begin debate on a piece legislation. Continued Republican blocks have prompted Democrats to up the ante and many, including Schumer, are calling for a revision to the rules to allow voting reform to pass with a simple majority.

This is far from the first call for a change to the filibuster rules made by Democrats in the evenly divided Senate, but a rule change would require unanimous support from all Senate Democrats, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have been clear they won’t support a carve out, even for voting rights.

But on Tuesday, Manchin moved slightly off his hardline stance, refusing to rule out a Democratic-only solution on voting rights if Republicans refused to negotiate. Manchin called passing a change to the Senate rules a “heavy lift” while speaking to reporters and emphasized that his “preference” would be Republican buy-in, but he stopped short of calling Republican support a “red line”

“That’s my preference,” Manchin said when asked if GOP support was necessary. “I would have to exhaust everything in my ability to talk and negotiate with people before I start doing things that other people might think need to be done.”

It was enough to give some Democrats a sliver of hope that the West Virginia moderate might be softening his position after months of talks.

But later in the day, after a one-hour, closed-door meeting with Schumer and a handful of key Democrats on voting rights and rules changes, Manchin insisted, “The filibuster needs to stay in place in any way, shape or form that we can do it.”

The senator did, however, express support for making it easier to begin debate on a bill.

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