He and most of his members have approved of what they see as a limited change in chamber rules. Still, Schumer has covered for a future majority by a slightly larger margin, whether democratic or republican, to follow up on where he fell short and perhaps move on.
Schumer gave Manchin months of space to work on a compromise election proposal, despite activists pressuring him to go faster. The leader's insistence on a vote that will split his caucus has only aroused more anger at West Virginian and the Sinema of Arizona, which he needs to carry out the rest of President Joe Biden's agenda. Still, Schumer says he had no choice.
"We sent our best envoy to talk to the Republicans. It was Joe Manchin. And we gave him months," Schumer said in an interview Wednesday. "The revelation that took place on a rule change? He did not even get a bite. "
Although social spending, corona aid, and infrastructure have at times eroded the Senate this Congress, no topic has captured Democrats like voting and electoral reform. Schumer designed the Democrats' first version of the bill "S. 1" - which describes it as the party's highest priority. Even when senators dug into other legislation, Schumer still maneuvered with elections and convened weekly meetings with a small group of senators for months.
His long arc of bringing Democrats in line with a bill designed to combat gerrymandering, extend early voting and turn election day into a federal holiday ended up persuading literally dozens of them to change filibusters - despite previous written promises about, that they would not do such a thing. In quick succession this summer, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Schumer said they would support a rule change.
The same trio tried and failed to sway Manchin to their side.
"Really, he has worked in every possible way to try to get us to say yes. This is the last piece of the puzzle. If this does not work, then he has literally turned every stone in cricket. He has done everything," he said. said Tester about Schumer.
There are no moral victories in the Senate: Bills are either passed or they fail. And Schumer has repeatedly acknowledged that it was a battle he might not have been able to win.
Sinema and Manchin support the Democrats' electoral reforms, but do not go around the 60-vote threshold to pass them, ensuring that the legislation will ultimately not succeed. Still by noon Wednesday, the rule change had won over Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) And Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), All previously reluctant to chip on the filibuster.
Early last year, "maybe only half would be in favor of changing the filibuster rule. And by the fall, it was growing," Schumer said. "We have 48."
However, Sinema and Manchin have been remarkably consistent in opposing changes to the filibuster. In a 2019 interview, Sinema directly warned Schumer and Democratic leaders that they "will not get my vote" to adjust the super-majority requirement. Manchin voted against his party's 2013 move to end the filibuster for most nominations, swearing in January last year that "I will not vote in this Congress" to change the threshold.
Sinema declined to comment for this story. In a speech on Wednesday, Manchin said Schumer should keep the voting and election package on the Senate floor for several weeks instead of quickly going for a rule change to pass the bill.
"We could have retained the voting law as the pending case for the Senate today, next week, a month from now," Manchin said. "This is important."
Just a year ago, the positions of Manchin and Sinema were a blessing to Schumer; at the time, minority leader Mitch McConnell refused to sign an organizing decision on a 50-50 Senate without a promise from Schumer not to change filibusters. Schumer never made that promise, even as two of his moderates did.
Yet the Democratic leader has been conscious and almost meticulous in his efforts against the filibuster, to an extent that his predecessor, the late Senator Harry Reid, was not after leaving the Senate and campaigning against the demand for a super-majority. Schumer convened a small group of center-right Democrats for "family talks" on changes to the rules after another failed vote on voting legislation earlier last year. He made his first explicit push in December after Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Blocked a bipartisan amendment agreement on a defense law.
At the time, Schumer was most focused on adopting Biden's $ 1.7 trillion climate and social spending. When Manchin derailed, Schumer quickly moved to the polls, even while acknowledging it was an "uphill" battle.
Schumer usually pays tribute to his caucus' unity and refuses to engage in extended debates on issues that divide his 50 members. This time, the Democrats were fine with isolating holdouts.
"There has been a lot of anxiety about how high a priority this is for us. And this, I think, makes it clear that there is no higher priority," said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Republicans see the real left-wing pressure on Schumer as coming from outside the chamber.
"He feels incredible pressure from his progressive base. And also, his own political future may also depend on his performance to avoid a difficult primary election," said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a frequent sparring partner for Schumer.
Schumer is ready for re-election, but has not yet drawn a primary opponent, despite the GOP's hopes that the rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) challenges him. Late. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) said it is "extremely cynical" to think that Schumer's actions as a leader stem from a primary threat that she said would not come true anyway: "I doubt it."
There are other political considerations on the way. While Republicans plan to hammer Democratic incumbents up for re-election this fall, the four Democrats facing the toughest Senate races are all backing with Schumer's rules changing.
Late. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) Said Wednesday that the Senate must be restored "to a time when we can debate these issues," and Senator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) said when she promised to protect the filibuster she "never imagined that today's Republican Party would fail to stand up for democracy. "
Kelly simply said that Schumer's "power" is to call votes. "My job is to come here and represent my constituents in the best way I know. And to vote on legislation even if it is not passed."
Some Democrats suggested that Schumer's move on Wednesday was only the start of a long campaign to peel Manchin and Sinema off. Another unilateral rule change this year is not off the table for the party.
But as Schumer approached the record-breaking vote he longed for, he still sounded a note of willingness to continue working with Republicans. Even, it seems, about overhaul of the chamber rules.
"We need to restore the Senate," Schumer said. "What I intend to do with rule changes is to get a group together, maybe even in two, to come up with rule changes and see what we can do to make the Senate better."