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Schumer starts debate on voting legislation, saying the “eyes of the nation” are on the Senate

Democrats are pushing ahead on one of the party's signature issues despite missing the votes to pass legislation in Congress and facing an uphill battle.

"Senate Democrats are not under any illusion that we are facing difficult odds, especially when virtually all Republicans in the Senate are firmly against legislation that protects the right to vote," Schumer said. "But I want to be clear: when this House confronts an issue that is so important, an issue that is so important to our country, so crucial to our ideals, so crucial to the future of our democracy, you do not slip it off. the table and say, Forget it. "

The New York Democrat on Tuesday decided to force a vote to break a filibuster on the voting law, which could take place as early as Wednesday if there is agreement. If there is no agreement, the vote will take place on Thursday.

"Just a few days away from what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 93rd birthday, the Senate has, for the first time in this Congress, begun the debate on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act." said Schumer.

The Senate Majority Leader reiterated his threat that if Senate Republicans filibuster the election proposal from moving forward, Democrats will try to change changes to Senate rules to pass legislation, an effort that also appears doomed to fail.

"We need to consider and vote on the rule changes that are appropriate and necessary to restore the Senate and make voting legislation possible," Schumer said.

The problem for Democrats is that they do not have the votes to get rid of the filibuster, which sets a 60-vote threshold for most laws to be passed, due to opposition from influential moderate Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten. Cinema from Arizona.

Democrats watch 'talking filibuster'

Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin gave the first indication of the rule change Democrats are seeking to make to pass voting legislation: Force senators to keep their word and mount a speaking filibuster if they want to block legislation. And when they stop talking, the Senate can advance the bill by just 51 votes.

"It's more of a talking filibuster," the Illinois Democrat told CNN when asked about the proposed change to the rules. Under current rules, senators can simply threaten a filibuster, asking a 60-vote threshold to pass a bill.

Durbin warned that this was not the final decision and would be "fortified" at a caucus meeting Tuesday night. "That's not the last word," he said.

Although Democrats are exploring this idea, they still do not have the support to withdraw.

Changing the rules along party lines would require the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. But Sinema and Manchin are still directly opposed to invoking what is known as "the nuclear option" to remove the filibuster threshold of 60 votes.

Democrats take over the right to vote

President Joe Biden has been focusing on the right to vote in recent days, despite the challenge his party faces and at a time when other key elements of his domestic agenda have stalled.

Last week, Biden promised to keep fighting during a visit to Capitol Hill, but admitted he does not know if Democrats will be able to pass the legislation they are pushing for.

"I hope we can get this done. The honest answer to God is that I do not know if we can get this done," Biden said. "I hope we can get this done, but I'm not sure. But one thing's for sure, like all the other big civil rights bills that came in. If we miss the first time, we can come back and try another time. "

Advocates and activists call for action

Prior to the expected Senate vote on electoral law, lawyers and activists present their case and appeal directly to lawmakers.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson on Tuesday sent a letter to senators pleading with them to "preserve democracy."

"Last year, state lawmakers introduced 440 bills to oppress voters across the country, and many were successfully etched into law. Efforts to oppress voters have only intensified this new year," Johnson wrote.

Separately, five well-known sports figures, including the famous basketball player Jerry West, wrote a letter to Manchin, asking him to help pass legislation on the right to vote.

They said the bill is "much-needed legislation that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of the results of all federal elections."

About 30 voting protesters were arrested Tuesday by Capitol police after violating the perimeter of the square and singing protest songs on the steps of the Senate.

They were there to urge the Senate to pass the combined this week this week. Protesters adapted traditional songs to include the names of Manchin, Sinema and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and sang "go tell Sinema we will not be moved," "go tell Manchin," and "ain't gonna let McConnell turn me around." They also shouted that "the filibuster has to go."

Some of the detainees are participating in a hunger strike and carried a sign saying they are on day 13.

The Capitol Police gave them their first warning about 10 minutes after they sat down and started arresting them after their third warning. Protesters were zipped up and loaded into USCP-labeled vans to be taken away from the scene for treatment.

This story has been updated with further developments on Tuesday.

CNN's Manu Raju, Eva McKend, Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

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