The high stakes of the Democrats’ push for voting reforms

ABC News' Linsey Davis speaks to ABC's political director, Rick Klein, and contributor Donna Brazile, about Democrats’ voting rights push and the future of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
7:24 | 01/20/22

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Transcript for The high stakes of the Democrats’ push for voting reforms
- Next to that, voting rights showdown. Tonight the Senate is discussing that proposal a skirt the filibuster rule to approve sweeping election reform measures. It came after hours of stinging, bitter debate. Let's take a listen to some of it. - Make no mistake. Win, lose, or draw members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, particularly on such an important issue as this. And win, lose, or draw, we are going to vote. We are going to vote. - They will try to smash and grab as much short-term power as they can carry. For both groups of senators, this vote will echo for generations. Before we part ways tonight, all hundred of us will have marked our legacies in permanent ink. - Talk of legacies and their place in history, both sides making the stakes very clear tonight. Let's bring in congressional correspondent, Rachel Scott. Rachel, bring us up to speed right now as far as where things stand. Well, Linsey, we are expecting debate on the Senate floor to wrap up soon. Senator Joe Manchin really dug in here. He supports this legislation, but he does not support Democrats changing the Senate rules in order to get it passed without any Republican support. Now this is very important because at the current state, Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans in order to move through this legislation. Right now, they do not have any. President Biden tonight says that he is not giving up, that he's eyeing possible executive action on this. He even suggested taking parts of this massive and sweeping voting rights legislation and trying to get that passed. But the bottom line is is that anything that he does going forward would need the support of both Democrats and Republicans, something that has sure proven to be an immense challenge for the President, Linsey. LINSEY DAVIS: Rachel Scott, our thanks to you. And now let's bring in ABC News contributor and former acting head of the DNC, Donna Brazile, and political director, Rick Klein. Thank you both so much for your time. Rick, it sort of feels like we are in this Groundhog Day all over again here talking frequently about Senators Manchin and Senator Sinema. They've maintained for months that they are a no to overturn the filibuster. Why even go forward with this vote tonight? They needed-- I think there was a lot of pressure on them to show that they were pushing every way they could. The fact that President Biden is opening the door to other maybe smaller reforms to elections and how votes are counted on the back end suggests that they may get something out of this, but it's a bitter disappointment. And it is a curious one when the party in power goes forward with something they know is going to lose. But I think in this case at least, highlighting it for the country may be all the victory the Democrats could get. - And Donna, you've called the renewed effort by President Biden to pass voting rights legislation a call to save democracy as we know it. The math, as you know, is just not changing at this point. If you were advising the president tonight, how would you tell him to proceed? - Well, first of all, I would thank the president and members of the United States Senate for allowing the American people to understand that this is a moment that we are calling upon them to stand with our country, stand with the right of every American to participate in our elections. But I would also remind the president that he must use every available tool in his executive toolbox going forward to ensure that no American is denied the right to vote, continue to sue those states and localities that try to put up onerous barriers, and to encourage every citizen in this country, every citizen, to register to vote and to make sure that their votes and their voices are not silent in the next election. - And Rick, speaking of using every available tool, our own Mary Bruce asked President Biden today why he didn't call Senator Romney, who has said that he would have been willing to work with Democrats on some voting reforms. Did the White House make a mistake by not reaching out to more Republicans here? RICK KLEIN: There is a window there to work on the Electoral Count Act that only has to do with the election of the president. We're talking about one election every four years as opposed to hundreds of local races and state races that would be covered under the broader legislation. But it does seem to be a tactical error to at least have not have made the outreach. Because President Biden has based so much of his appeal and his promise on the idea of unity, of reaching out, to not even make the call to someone that might-- might be part of the engagement, I think there's a little bit of regret surrounding that and I think maybe a corrective course moving forward. - And finally, Donna-- - You know, Linsey, the call to-- - Oh, go ahead. Yes. - The call of conscience does not have to come from a president. The call of conscience must come from your own moral core, your own value system. It was Senator Romney's father who led the battle along with Dr. King and so many others. So that call should have come because of his own lineage. I want to say to all my Republican friends, the 16 who joined George W. Bush in 2006 and voting for an extension of 25 years, we are calling upon you now-- the Civil Rights leaders have already called you. If the president didn't reach you, the Civil Rights leaders have called you. And we're going to keep calling you, so don't worry. Keep your phone. Keep your phone on because we're going to call on you, Senator Romney. We're going to call on you, Senator Mitch McConnell. We're not giving up this battle. The battle for voting rights will never be denied as long as we keep fighting for the right of every American to have the freedom to vote. - Is it too late to give Romney a call right now tonight do you think? - If I had his number-- you know, I've called every Democratic Senator and everybody-- some of my Republican friends. We need your help. The right to vote is not about Democrats. It's not about Republicans and independents. It's about-- it's a key component of our democracy. It is an essential ingredient in participatory democracy. So yes, keep your phone on. We're calling. - And lastly, Donna, big picture for a moment. We're now one year into the Biden presidency. What does the president have to do now to get back-- his party back on track and hold on to Congress in the midterm elections? - Tell his story. Do you know that every kid in America will one day be able to drink out of their pipes without fearing that they're lead and poisoning? Every American will have access to the internet, high speed internet. Joe Biden is making progress on the things that are really concerning the American people. So keep telling your story. Continue to fight inflation. Protect our borders. And I guarantee you, the American people will look at what the Democrats are doing. And I think the president had it right tonight when he said, what do they-- what are the Republicans standing for? What do they stand for? I say to everyone, including my good buddy, Rick, don't count out the Democrats. It may look bleak, but Democrats like the fight when it gets really dark. LINSEY DAVIS: And President Biden signaling today that he's going to take a bit of a victory lap and kind of explain to the American people all that he has done. Political director, Rick Klein, ABC News contributor, Donna Brazile. We thank you both for your insight and your time tonight. If you get through to Senator Romney, let us know. - I respect him. I will try. LINSEY DAVIS: All right. Donna, thank you so much. Rick, appreciate you. - Thank you. - Thank you, Linsey.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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