Then come the truly hard issues, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) insists there is progress in talks with Democrats on a police reform bill. The “only” outstanding disagreements on the bill, as Scott told Axios, are stopping transfers of military equipment to local and state police, qualified immunity, a federal ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants. Since these amount to virtually all the critical issues in police reform, count me skeptical that Scott can find nine other Republicans to sign onto meaningful legislation. Let’s hope he does. If not, will Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) really be the ones to sink the George Floyd bill by refusing to modify the filibuster? The eyes of millions of Americans who sat through the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin will be on them.
Democrats also have panoply of voting rights measures, including H.R. 1 (e.g., guaranteeing early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, automatic registration) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would reinstate the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, allowing the Justice Department to head off discriminatory measures before they jeopardize voters.
Put aside the more controversial parts of H.R. 1 (e.g., public campaign financing). Does anyone think there are 10 Republican votes in the Senate for any of the rest of it? These are the people who want to punish Major League Baseball for objecting to the rollback of voting access in Georgia.
Republicans have not even bothered to float counterproposals. Judging from their strident defense of Georgia’s law and other states’ Jim Crow-style measures, I would find it highly unlikely any Republican would break with their party’s determination to make voting harder, especially for poor and non-White voters.
Once more, the nation’s attention will be on the Democrats who keep insisting there are deals to be made that reach 60 votes. If 10 Republicans who support the stand-alone H.R. 4 and some version of H.R. 1 do not materialize even after Democrats attempt to engage them and offer multiple opportunities to strip away objectionable parts, the civil rights community, the White House and the Democratic base will be laser-focused on Manchin and Sinema. Do they really want to cling to the filibuster, the same device used as an extension of the Jim Crow era in the 1950s and 1960s, in the face of all that?
I suppose Democratic defenders of the filibuster might do just that, but it might just be that Democrats eventually call their bluff on morally essential and politically popular items. Then Democrats might develop a newfound appreciation for the idea that the party of white supremacy cannot be permitted to use undemocratic means to secure their power and deny fellow Americans’ equal protection and fundamental civil rights guaranteed under the Constitution. I find it hard to imagine Democrats would stand for it. At least I hope not.