Chuck Schumer Hints at Filibuster Reform in Push To Pass Voting Rights Act

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said "failure is not an option" for a potential landmark piece of voting rights legislation currently being considered by the Senate. He also hinted that the filibuster could be on the table.

H.R. 1 has already been passed by the House of Representatives, but in the evenly divided Senate the Democrats' bill is expected to struggle and possibly face the significant challenge of the filibuster.

Schumer told CNN's Don Lemon on Wednesday that he intends to do all he can to pass the bill and he criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The two men had clashed after McConnell attacked H.R. 1 in committee.

"Well first, as I said, this is despicable," Schumer told Lemon.

"For Mitch McConnell to say there, on the screen, that we are trying to change the rules? No.

"It's Republican legislatures across the country that could take away the rights, according to the Washington Post, of up to 10 million people, mainly poor, mainly people of color, mainly Democrats, mainly urban, because they lost the election."

Republicans in 43 states have introduced legislation that would make it harder to vote, according to findings from the Brennan Center for Justice. The proposed changes are in many cases a reaction to the widespread use of mail-in and absentee ballots in the 2020 election.

Schumer said GOP attempts to block H.R. 1 were "obnoxious, despicable, and anti-democratic" and compared them to an "autocracy" like Hungary. That country's conservative government has made major changes to its constitutional structure that favor the ruling party.

"Failure is not an option. This will not stand," Schumer said. "Our caucus feels very strongly about this, very strongly."

Lemon asked if it was possible to pass H.R. 1 without changing the filibuster. This parliamentary procedure allows a minority of 41 senators to prevent a vote on legislation and has become a major topic of debate since Democrats took control of the Senate.

"There will be a national campaign about this launched by many groups and our hope is always that Republicans will see the light," Schumer said.

"But if they don't, our caucus will gather and we will figure out the best way to change these rules and everything will be on the table. As I've said before, failure is not an option. We cannot allow this to stand and everything is on the table," he said.

Despite Schumer's assurances, the filibuster is a major barrier to Democrats' legislative agenda. The procedure could potentially derail key bills such as H.R. 1 and the Dream and Promise Act.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Schumer has said he's determined to pass a new voting rights bill. Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images