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President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he supports changing Senate filibuster rules “whichever way they need to be changed” to advance voting-rights legislation. It’s not yet clear, however, how Democrats will try to alter the longstanding procedure.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has set Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Monday — as a deadline for either passing voting bills or considering revision of filibuster rules. But with at least two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — opposed to filibuster changes, the effort to alter the Senate rule currently appears highly uncertain.

Read: Biden backs filibuster changes to pass voting-rights legislation — ‘to protect our democracy’

Democrats have several choices for filibuster reform. Here is a brief look at some key options.  

Carve-out: The filibuster allows the minority party to kill legislation that doesn’t get 60 votes. Democrats could try what’s known as a carve-out from the filibuster, and exempt voting-rights bills from the 60-vote threshold, as has previously been done, under then–Majority Leader Harry Reid, to secure confirmation of presidential appointments and, under then–Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to confirm nominees to the Supreme Court (and, more recently, to lift the federal debt limit without requiring Republicans to cast votes to do so).  

Earlier this year, Manchin said he was skeptical of the carve-out idea. “Anytime there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey,” he said. “There’s nothing left.” He said his preference is for any rule change to be bipartisan, and not solely reliant on the votes of Democrats plus independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any tie.   

Talking filibuster: Made famous by the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” a talking filibuster requires senators to speak on the floor to block votes on bills. Last spring, Biden endorsed this tactic, saying that when he was a senator, “you had to stand up and command the floor. You had to keep talking.”

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As the Washington Post points out, however, the tactic has since been made much easier. Currently, senators only must state their intention to block a bill.

Other options: Democrats could also eliminate the 60-vote threshold on what’s known as the “motion to proceed” to bring bills to the floor for debate, or “require 41 votes to continue debate rather than 60 to end it,” as scholar Norman Ornstein described in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

As Democrats mull their options, Schumer was reportedly meeting with Manchin and Sinema on Wednesday. “We are not there yet,” he told reporters of securing the pair’s support for a rules change to pass the voting bills.

Manchin is an original co-sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act, joined by all other Democrats and independents in the chamber, while the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which seeks to restore protections provided by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and was introduced in the Senate by Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, boasts 48 co-sponsors, and won through compromise the backing of not just Manchin but Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.

The John Lewis Voting Right Advancement Act passed the House of Representatives in August 2021. In March 2021, the House passed the For the People Act. The Freedom to Vote Act contains most of the critical provisions of the For the People Act, according to a summary from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Read on: Stacey Abrams calls for congressional voting-rights action ahead of second race for governor in Georgia

Source: This post first appeared on

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