Business Insider: Sen. Alex Padilla says Democrats will have ‘no choice’ but to ‘revisit’ filibuster reform if the GOP blocks a voting-rights compromise bill

By John L. Doorman

Sen. Alex Padilla on Sunday said that if Republicans block the voting-rights compromise legislation being drafted by Democratic lawmakers, then the party will have “no choice” but to look to filibuster reform.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” the California Democrat, who last December was tapped to join the upper chamber to fill the remaining term of now-Vice President Kamala Harris, said that if Democrats fail to muster 10 GOP votes to overcome an filibuster, then the party would have to reexamine how to pass the legislation.

Padilla said that a working group that consists of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, along with himself and others, sought to work diligently in order to craft a bill that could garner the support of all 50 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

“We’ve taken some during this August recess to appeal to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “I know Sen. Manchin keeps reminding everybody how the preference is always to work in a bipartisan fashion. When we can, that’s great. But our fundamental voting rights are so important and so critical.”

He emphasized: “I think if we’re not successful in getting 10 Republicans to do the right thing, then we have no choice but to revisit the rules of the Senate … some outdated rules of the Senate. Whether it’s abolishing the filibuster as a whole or somehow creating a carve-out or exemption to allow these measures to go forward for the sake of our democracy. It’s too important.”

For months, the party’s marquee voting-rights measures — the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act (H.R. 4) — have stalled in Congress.

The previous version of the For the People Act included provisions to ban partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and curb voter purges, among other measures. The bill would also mandate that states offer mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, policies which are anathema to conservatives.

The House passed the previous version of the bill, but it has languished in the Senate — Democrats need 60 votes to advance the legislation and Republicans have so far refused to sign on to H.R. 1 and filibustered the bill in June. For months, Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have dismissed calls to nix the filibuster, saying that such an action would only inflame partisan divisions.

Even if the compromise bill receives 50 votes, Democrats still need 10 crossover votes. Republicans, who have passed of wave of restrictive voting laws across the country, have accused their colleagues across the aisle of seeking to “federalize” what they feel are election matters that should be within the purview of states.

Democrats contend that the GOP-led voting laws have imperiled the voting rights of everyday Americans, while conservatives argue that the bills are designed to shield the voting process from nefarious activity — despite the low rates of significant voter fraud.

Since joining the Senate, Padilla, who previously oversaw California’s elections as secretary of state, has called for the elimination of the filibuster.

In March, after the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed through the reconciliation process on a party-line vote, Padilla blasted GOP attempts to stop the bill as a pattern that was becoming politically untenable.

“If we continue to see obstruction from our Republican colleagues as we saw through this COVID relief package, then I think the patience is going to wear thin, even on moderate Democrats,” he said at the time.

When asked by Hasan whether he agreed with his Golden State Senate colleague, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said in June that she didn’t view democracy as “being in jeopardy right now,” Padilla took a different view.

“Democracy is clearly in jeopardy,” he said. “What I can say is that a lot of my colleagues that may have been reticent earlier in the year to modify or abolish the filibuster continue to see the obstruction by not just Mitch McConnell but our Republican colleagues across the board.”

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