After traveling to Georgia yesterday, President Joe Biden will meet with Senate Democrats on Thursday amid a push for his party to change the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation. President Biden will attend a closed-door Democratic caucus lunch to discuss the push to pass voting rights and potential changes to Senate rules as the meeting comes as Biden is stepping up his public push to get voting rights legislation through the Senate in the face of Republican opposition, as progressive groups have urged him to lean into the fight to win over members of his own party on changing the rules after Democrats missed self-imposed deadlines last year. President Biden’s decision to attend the Senate Democratic lunch, giving him the chance to lobby Senate Democrats directly, is the latest escalation of a high-profile, yet uphill, bid to change the Senate’s filibuster rule after Republicans previously used it to block to sweeping election bills and separate legislation named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) that would strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has vowed to bring up election-related legislation and if Republicans, as expected, block it again, to hold a vote on changing the Senate’s rules by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 17th. Democrats haven’t yet agreed on a filibuster reform proposal as around-the-clock negotiations continue among the caucus. One option includes moving to a talking filibuster, where opponents could delay the bill for as long as they could hold the floor, but legislation would ultimately be able to pass with a simple majority. They are also mulling a carveout that would exempt voting rights legislation from needing 60 votes. Democrats are also discussing smaller changes including shifting from needing 60 votes to break a filibuster to needing 41 votes to sustain it or getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle currently required for starting debate while keeping it in place for ending debate. While negotiations continue, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on Wednesday offered a blistering rebuke of President Biden’s speech in Georgia, in which the president pushed for voting rights and changing the legislative filibuster, saying that it was “abandoning rational persuasion for pure demagoguery.”
For today, the Senate will resume consideration of the nomination of Alan Davidson to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information as well as the nomination of Amitabha Bose to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee began a markup at 9 a.m. to vote on nominations including Amy Gutmann as ambassador to Germany, and a hearing at 9:30 a.m. on nominations including Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India and Joe Donnelly to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See.
The House will continue work on H.R. 1836 – Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act of 2021 as well as the Rule Providing for Consideration of the House Amendment to Senate Amendment to H.R. 5746 – NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2021 which extends Enhanced Use Leasing (EUL) authority to NASA to effectively lease any underutilized, non-excess property owned by the Federal Government, and under NASA’s jurisdiction, to private sector entities, state and local governments, academic institutions, and other Federal agencies.