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Democrats on Capitol Hill fail on voting rights but win the release of Trump files

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Senate Democrats failed to advance a voting rights bill last night after Republicans blocked their legislation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was unable to unite his party behind a Senate rule change to get around the GOP blockade.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: Even for those who feel that the filibuster is a good thing and helps bring us together, I would ask this question - isn't protecting voting rights, the most fundamental wellspring of this democracy, more important than a rule in this chamber?

ELLIOTT: In the end, Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined all the Senate Republicans to preserve the filibuster by a vote of 52-48. With voting rights stalled, Democrats now want to revive President Biden's domestic policy and spending plan, the so-called Build Back Better bill. NPR's Deirdre Walsh, who covers Congress, joins us now. Good morning, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So Majority Leader Schumer had admitted that moving voting rights was an uphill battle. Why push something that was pretty much destined to fail?

WALSH: Well, Schumer and other Democrats argued this issue was just so important to push because of what they see as damaging efforts from state legislatures across the country to disenfranchise voters. Many say that voting rights efforts over decades have suffered both setbacks and progress. And they wanted to push ahead. They say voters, especially from communities of color, who were key to getting President Biden elected and getting Democrats elected from swing states like Georgia, want to see Democrats fight. I talked to Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb. He's running for Senate in Pennsylvania. And he talked about the unique status for this issue. Here's Congressman Lamb.

CONOR LAMB: Voting rights are special. And they have a very, very important place in our politics. And so on something like voting rights, when we're fighting really to the last inch to try to get it passed, I think people understand why that's so important.

ELLIOTT: So in his news conference yesterday, President Biden talked about moving onto the Build Back Better bill and possibly breaking it up and passing it in chunks. What do the Democrats on Capitol Hill think about that?

WALSH: Many support it. I talked to both progressives and moderates in the Capitol yesterday. And they're really eager to push ahead on that Build Back Better bill. This is the $1.7 trillion package that stalled after Senator Manchin said he couldn't back it. And a lot of them are just saying they need to do whatever it takes to get as much of it done. And that should really be the focus right now. One piece that a lot of Democrats I talked to focused on was the child tax credit. But the president said at his press conference he didn't think that could be part of this effort. So that's a real divide. You know, Hill Democrats and the White House have pulled - pointed out this policy has cut child poverty in half. So there's a lot of interest in trying to get that done. Other key pieces the Democrats mentioned were moving things to promote housing programs and climate change provisions.

ELLIOTT: OK. While we have you here, there was news last night from the U.S. Supreme Court that gives congressional investigators access to records from the Trump administration. What happened?

WALSH: So the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the National Archives has to hand over records from former President Trump's administration to the House select committee investigating January 6. Trump's legal team appealed to the high court to try to block that. But they ruled against him. These are things like visitors' logs, emails, memos about legal strategies - all things the committee wants to see as they piece together all the conversations around the former president that led up to the insurrection. The select committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, and the top Republican on the panel, Liz Cheney, released a statement last night saying the panel, quote, "has already begun to receive records the former president had hoped to keep hidden." And they say they expect to get more material soon.

ELLIOTT: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Thanks so much.

WALSH: Thanks, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.