New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, announced Thursday night she will support an effort to sidestep the Senate’s filibuster rules to pass voting rights legislation despite unified Republican opposition.
Her announcement during a speech on the Senate floor comes as Democrats are rallying behind the sweeping legislation, since it has become clear they will be unable to pass the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better bill, an economic and climate package, anytime soon.
While Hassan has supported a pair of voting rights bills under discussion, her position on whether she would back efforts to scrap the 60-vote threshold under filibuster rules for a simple 50-vote majority to pass the bill had been murky until now.
“A set of arcane Senate rules are being used as an excuse not to act. This cannot stand,” Hassan said. “We must change the rules to allow a simple majority of this body, as our founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.
“I believe the time has come to change the Senate rules to allow a straight up or down majority vote on this fundamental issue of democracy,” she continued.
One of the bills Hassan supports is the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which 47 senators introduced earlier in the year. The bill largely aims to reinstate 1960s-era voting laws meant to protect minority voters that were eliminated by the US Supreme Court in 2013. The House has already passed the bill.
Hassan announcement that she would scrap the filibuster for voting rights legislation came a day after Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper did the same thing. Democrats still need two more votes from within their party to advance voting rights legislation to even reach 50 votes.
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, supports the bill but is wary of scrapping the filibuster to pass it. She would like to see the Senate debate the filibuster. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, another Democrat, generally sees voting rights bills as non-starters assuming the filibuster remains in place.
For example, Manchin has warned that if voting rights legislation needs only a simple majority then if Republicans regain the majority they could quickly pass legislation to limit voting rights.
Unlike Manchin, Sinema and even Hickenlooper, Hassan is among the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection next year. After New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu decided not to challenge Hassan last month, Republicans have yet to have any new top-tier candidates announce they will run. Even though she doesn’t have a major opponent, Republicans and even the New Hampshire Secretary of State have been vocal in their opposition to voting rights bills, believing that more federal involvement in local elections could threaten the state’s traditional role of holding the nation’s first presidential primary.
James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.