WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., condemned Democrats for invoking the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a reason to consider changing the filibuster rule in order to pass voting rights legislation.
“No party that would trash the Senate’s legislation traditions can be trusted to seize control over election laws all across America,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Nobody who is this desperate to take over our democracy on a one-party basis can be allowed to do it.”
“Finally, it is beyond distasteful for some of our colleagues to ham-fistedly invoke the Jan. 6 anniversary to advance these aims,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on his Democratic colleagues on Monday to do whatever it takes to pass voting and election laws to “save our democracy.”
In a letter sent to senators three days before the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, Schumer said the Senate will seek bipartisan support for election reform legislation. He also promised consideration of rule changes — “on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day” — to ease the path for Democrats to pass the legislation with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes required under existing order.
In the 50-50 Senate, the path is unclear for new voting or election laws, which congressional Republicans overwhelmingly oppose. McConnell has argued that states should be able to set their own rules and that Congress shouldn’t intervene.
“A year ago the Senate didn’t bend and it didn’t break. We held strong,” said McConnell. “It is jaw-dropping for colleagues to propose to commemorate that by breaking the Senate themselves in a different way.”
Moderate Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are supportive of the Freedom to Vote Act, which focuses on expanding voter access, boosting election integrity and encouraging civil participation, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would strengthen voting laws at the federal level to fight restrictive voting laws passed in Republican-led states.
But both have been resistant to supporting a rule change to get around the 60-vote threshold.
Thursday is the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot. Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday canceled a news conference scheduled for that day, blaming the House committee investigating the riot.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris plan to speak about the attack Thursday, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has scheduled a series of events to observe the anniversary.
Julie Tsirkin is a producer and reporter for NBC News’ Capitol Hill team.
Teaganne Finn is a political reporter for NBC News.