Mark Kelly says he'll back changing filibuster rule for voting rights

·2 min read
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, November 16, 2021.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said on Wednesday that he will back changing the 60-vote legislative filibuster for voting rights legislation, putting him at odds with fellow Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D).

Kelly, who is up for reelection this year, is one of the final senators to announce their position on the rules change on the filibuster.

In a statement, Kelly said that as part of his deliberation he had spoken with colleagues about how to make the Senate function better and "considered what rules changes would mean not just today, but years down the road, for both parties and all Arizonans."

"If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote. Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction," Kelly said in a statement.

Kelly's decision comes as the Senate is scheduled to vote at 6:30 p.m. on a voting bill that combines the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls federal elections and campaign finance, with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Republicans will use the filibuster to block that bill from getting the 60 votes needed to move forward. After that, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will try to change the Senate's rules to move to a talking filibuster on voting rights legislation. That would get rid of the 60-vote requirement for that issue, though keep it intact for other legislation. Under a talking filibuster, opponents can delay a bill by holding the floor, but it can ultimately pass with a simple majority.

Kelly's decision splits him from Sinema, who like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) supports keeping the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

Schumer's attempt to change the rules will likely fail because of Manchin's and Sinema's opposition. To change the rules without GOP support, Democrats need total unity from all 50 of their members, leaving them no room for error.

Schumer, speaking from the Senate floor on Wednesday, made a final plea to his Democratic colleagues to support changing the rules to pass voting rights legislation and vowed to move forward, even if it fails.

"Make no mistake: Win, lose or draw, members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote," Schumer said. "We are going to vote."