We often hear about RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). How about DINOs (Democrats in Name Only)? They, too, exist, like those two bookend obstructionists Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
On Jan. 22, that duo had the brazen gall to vote against the Freedom to Vote Act, along with all 50 Senate Republicans. Oh sure, Sinema and Manchin claimed (most unconvincingly) they were only voting to protect the Senate filibuster. But of course they knew their votes for filibuster would sink the voting-rights bill – at least for now.
The filibuster requires a majority of 60 senators (not 51 of 100) to pass legislation. The filibuster, which is not even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, was cooked up years ago, used as a way to block or kill legislation, especially during the Civil Rights Era. In recent years, the filibuster has become a tactic by which a minority party can prevent landmark bills from being approved.
What happened on Jan. 22 is this: There was a proposal to drop the filibuster temporarily, dubbed a “carve-out,” just so the Freedom to Vote Act would have a chance of passing. That could have occurred if those devious spoilsports, Manchin and Sinema, had voted to drop the filibuster. The Senate would have split 50-50 strictly along party lines, and Vice President Kamala Harris would have cast the deciding vote, making the tally 51-50 for a squeak-through victory.
The filibuster “rule” has been dropped many times for any number of reasons and/or excuses to approve this or that bill or confirmation. If Sinema and Manchin had truly believed strongly in the Freedom to Vote Act, they would have voted immediately to forego the filibuster, then vote for the bill. They ought to be ashamed because it certainly appears they used their dearly beloved filibuster as an excuse for putting the kibosh on voting rights. It was one of the most shameful days in Senate history and does not bode well for the future, when Senate minorities will block or kill important legislation favored by a majority of Americans, like the Freedom to Vote Act.
Our Democracy is in mortal danger. Just last year, 34 voting-suppression laws were approved by Republican legislatures in 19 states. Of course, they dare not call them suppression bills (oh no!); instead, they claim the laws will protect the integrity of the voting process by making “massive voter fraud” impossible – you know, the “massive voting fraud” they falsely, stubbornly keep claiming “stole” the election from Trump.
In fact, those new voting laws will limit, discourage or prevent access to the polls by many Black Americans, Latinos and others – the ones who tend to favor Democrats. Those onerous laws are termites chewing away at the foundation of Democracy – that foundation being the right of every American citizen to cast a free and fair vote in an election.
These laws limit the time for early voting, move voting places far from minority neighborhoods, purge the names of voters from registration lists for flimsy reasons, limit or ban mail-in voting, greatly decrease or get rid of ballot drop boxes and even (in Georgia) make it illegal for someone to bring food or water to voters waiting in line for hours at voting places. Some states have even passed laws that give state officials authority over the procedures of county election workers.
Another scheme is to sway elections via gerrymandering, the unfair skewing of legislative-district borderlines to favor one political party over another.
The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Act would stop the most blatant voting-suppression laws and set standards to ensure the flourishing of genuine free-and-fair Democracy. Who with a good patriotic conscience could oppose such protective bills?
Well, on Jan. 22, that is exactly what 50 Republicans and two rogue Democrats did. They used the filibuster rule as an excuse to keep themselves in perpetual power.