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Senate Democrats lack clear message on voting reform push

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Protesters rally to demand protection for voting rights on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington on Aug. 28, 2021.
Protesters rally to demand protection for voting rights on the 58th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington on Aug. 28, 2021.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden meets with his Covid response team at 2:00 p.m. ET. ... Another House Democrat is retiring. ... Conor Lamb is doubling down on scrapping the filibuster in the Pennsylvania Senate race. ... And Bill Gardner is stepping down as New Hampshire’s all-important secretary of state.

But first: With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer using the upcoming Jan. 6 anniversary as a rallying cry to pass voting/election reform bills, Democrats need to answer an important question.

When they talk about saving democracy and preventing another Jan. 6 from happening again, do they mean:

  • Rolling back the restrictions on early voting and mail-in ballots that GOP-led legislatures and Republican governors passed last year?
  • Passing redistricting and campaign-finance reforms, as well as establishing Election Day as a federal holiday (which are part of the Senate Democrats' Freedom to Vote Act)?
  • Strengthening the Voting Rights Act (which is the crux of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act)?
  • Or trying to prevent anyone who wants to overturn already-established election results — like we saw Donald Trump and his allies try to do after the 2020 contest?

Right now, many or even most Democrats would answer with, “all of the above.”

But only that last bullet point — trying to prevent someone from overturning already-established election results — directly deals with what happened on Jan. 6.

If saving democracy after Jan. 6 is the goal, Democrats need to be clear about what their desired bills do when it comes to preventing the overturning of election results.

Or if the goal is far broader, as many Democrats and activists believe is necessary, that ups the degree of difficulty — where Senate Democrats need to woo at least 10 Republicans to their side (and win unanimous support from their own party), or convince skeptical colleagues to sidestep (or abolish) the filibuster.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is 45.

That’s the number of years New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has served in office — Gardner announced on Monday he would resign “within days” to allow his successor ample time to prepare for the forthcoming elections.

A stalwart protector of the Granite State’s “First in the Nation Primary,” Gardner has been a key fixture both in New Hampshire and presidential politics. First elected by the state legislature in 1976, Gardner has been elected to 23 terms as secretary of state, serving with 11 governors and thousands of state lawmakers.

Other numbers you need to know today:

830,623: The number of total deaths in the United States from Covid-19, per the most recent data from NBC News.

56,339,726: The number of total Covid cases in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, per the most recent data from NBC News.

9: The number of states that have reported record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations related to Covid.

1,200 percent: The increase in the U.S. Capitol’s seven-day Covid positivity rate amid the omicron spike.

35: The number of House members not running for re-election this cycle (not including Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who just resigned outright).

Midterm roundup

Senate Democrats don’t have enough votes to scrap the filibuster right now, but that could change if they defy the odds and expand their Senate majority, since most top Democratic candidates say they would get rid of the 60-vote threshold to end debate. Even moderate Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., reiterated his opposition to the filibuster on Monday. Lamb, who is locked in a competitive Senate primary, first announced his position back in May when a bill establishing an independent commission to investigate Jan. 6 failed to pass the Senate.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.,became the 24th House Democrat to announce he is not running for re-election. Rush, who tested positive for Covid last week, was first elected in 1992. Rush was facing multiple primary challengers, but he’s fended off such challenges before — most notably defeating then-state Sen. Barack Obama in 2000. Rush’s retirement opens up the 1st District, which remained deeply Democratic after redistricting.

Former President Donald Trump is trying to follow through on his threat to support primary challengers against Republicans who supported the bipartisan infrastructure package, saying in a one-sentence statement Monday, “Anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?” Bacon supported the infrastructure package but did not vote to impeach Trump. The Cook Political Report rates the 2nd District race Likely Republican.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

New York Attorney General Letitia James is subpoenaing Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in the tax fraud investigation into the Trump Organization.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is set to back a New York constitutional amendment setting term limits on statewide elected officials.

A jury convicted Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes on four fraud charges on Monday.

Trump endorsed Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán on Monday. Orbán is facing a challenge from a political newcomer who wants Hungary to be more engaged with the European Union.

The original BlackBerry will stop working on Tuesday, the final nail in the coffin for the once-ubiquitous cellphone.