Now what? Their agenda mostly shelved, Democrats tout short list of accomplishments

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told lawmakers the Senate would forgo a planned recess and remain in session next week to debate and vote on two partisan election bills and a major rule change to modify the long-standing filibuster.

The party's legislative agenda, however, is on hiatus.

None of the measures the New York Democrat plans to bring up next week has a chance of passing, thanks to internal divisions. The exercise is merely poised to add to the pileup of stalled legislation that has left party lawmakers with little to show as voters become more frustrated with a Democratic-controlled government.

Democrats pivoted to voting legislation this month after ditching plans to consider President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, a $1.75 trillion social welfare and green energy bill.

The voting legislation will suffer the same fate as Build Back Better, blocked by centrists who, in this instance, won't support a change in filibuster rules to circumvent Republican opponents.

Their voting legislation doomed to fail, Democrats pivoted once again on Friday, this time turning to the $1 trillion infrastructure bill Biden signed in November that he negotiated with a bipartisan group of senators.

The infrastructure bill was far less popular among party liberals who said it fell short on green energy and mass transit funding. But intraparty gridlock has left the measure as a lone significant achievement for Democrats.

The Democratic policy and communications team in the Senate issued a "Building back better bulletin" on Friday to promote the infrastructure bill's funding for crumbling bridges.

The bulletin credited the Biden administration for announcing new clean energy projects staffed with union workers.

It also highlighted the administration's announcement it would purchase 500 million additional at-home rapid COVID-19 tests as the nation experiences a tremendous surge in cases due to the omicron variant and a mass shortage of tests.

"The Biden Administration has taken action to increase testing supply, places people can get free tests and the types of tests authorized for use," Senate Democrats wrote.

Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, who had to twist arms to get her caucus to pass the infrastructure bill, hailed the benefits of the measure in a statement issued Friday.

Pelosi announced the Golden State would receive $850 million to fix crumbling bridges, part of $4.2 billion overall for bridges over the next five years from the bill.

"This new funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to make bridges throughout the Golden State safer and stronger is further proof that Democrats Deliver!" Pelosi wrote in the statement.

For now, Democrats are not admitting defeat on the voting overhaul measures.

In a memo to fellow Democrats Friday, Pelosi called on the Senate to pass the two bills, which would block red-state voter integrity laws the party believes will stop them from winning key races in November.

"Next week, after our nation commemorates voting rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Senate must do its part to advance this legislation," Pelosi wrote to fellow Democrats. "Nothing less than our democracy is at stake."

Two centrist holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, announced this week they wouldn't back a change to the filibuster that would allow Democrats to pass the measure with 51 votes instead of the usual 60.


The duo met with Biden on Thursday evening, but despite his urging, they appear on track to block a filibuster change next week. That will, in turn, give Republicans the power to defeat the voter overhaul bills.

Despite the looming failure, Schumer plans to hold the votes.

"Members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, particularly on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as this one," Schumer said. "And we will proceed."

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