Democrats ponder Plan B strategy to circumvent voting rights filibuster
James Wallner, a former Senate Republican aide and expert on Senate procedure, says that Democrats could pass voting rights legislation with a simple-majority vote if they’re willing to put up with a lengthy battle on the floor.
“Democrats don’t need 60 votes at all. They’re in 51-vote territory. They can move to table any amendments that Republicans offer to the bill,” he said.
“The easiest way to get to final passage on this bill is to put it on the floor and have Vice President Kamala Harris or Majority Leader Schumer or any other senator start to make points of order against any senator who tries to speak more than twice,” he added, referring to Senate Rule XIX.
That rule states that “no senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate.”
Wallner said this applies to making various motions, which also counts as speech under the rule. He also noted that Schumer could stretch out “a legislative day” by several days or weeks to enforce Rule XIX.
He argued that if the two-speech rule is enforced, Republicans would eventually exhaust their ability to debate and hold up a final vote on voting rights legislation or any other bill.
“Eventually, common sense tells you, the minority can’t speak forward. So if the majority is determined to prevail in this instance, they’re going to prevail. Why? Because they have more votes. That’s the way it works,” he added. “The question is are they determined to prevail, and this is where you basically get into a resolve fight. This is how the Senate worked prior to 1917.”
Wallner mapped out the strategy in a recent article for the libertarian magazine Reason.
Wallner, the former Senate Republican aide, says these problems can be overcome if Democrats have enough energy and discipline to repeatedly vote down Republican motions.
“They can table at any point anything before the Senate, so the Democrats are literally in simple-majority territory right now,” he said.