Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced late Thursday the Senate is set to take up legislation related to elections on Jan. 18.
Earlier on Thursday, Democrats in the House combined two separate voting bills—the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act—into a single text, and approved the measure with a 220-203 party-line vote.
The legislation was sent to the Senate where Democrats are using a procedural loophole to bypass a filibuster and force the legislation to the floor for a debate.
While Senate Republicans are therefore barred from blocking debate, they can still block their Democrat colleagues from holding a final vote.
Schumer’s announcement of Jan. 18 is one day off from his self-imposed deadline of Jan. 17 to take up the election-related measure.
“Due to the circumstances regarding COVID and another potentially hazardous winter storm approaching the D.C. area this weekend, the Senate will adjourn tonight,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “However, we will be postponing recess so the Senate can vote on voting rights. We will return on Tuesday to take up the House-passed message containing voting rights legislation.”
“Make no mistake, the United States Senate will, for the first time this Congress, debate voting rights legislation beginning on Tuesday.”
He adds, “And if Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote, as we expect them to, the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules, as has been done many times before, to allow for passage of voting rights legislation.”
The John L. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, among a slew of provisions, would restore some aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in an effort to boost federal control over elections in the United States.
The Freedom to Vote Act would create federal standards for voting by mail, early voting, and voter ID, among other provisions.
In addition to combining the two bills into a single text, Democrats placed it into previously passed legislation extending NASA’s authority to lease its facilities.
President Joe Biden on Thursday met with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill, calling on them to overhaul the filibuster—the 60-vote threshold to advance legislation in the chamber—so they could bypass the unanimous objections of Republicans and pass the legislation with a simple majority in the narrowly-divided chamber.
But before the president’s arrival to the U.S. Capitol, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) reiterated they would not support changes to the filibuster, putting the strategy in doubt.
“Eliminating the 60-vote threshold will simply guarantee that we lose a critical tool that we need to safeguard our democracy from threats in the years to come,” Sinema said.
Biden himself expressed doubt that the legislation would pass Congress after the senators signaled their opposition. “The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” he told reporters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.