WASHINGTON – The Senate is poised to consider voting rights legislation this week, possibly voting as soon as Tuesday. Its passage looks unlikely, but Democrats are working overtime to unify in its favor as Republicans stand firm in opposition.
Democrats hailed the For the People Act – a sweeping bill aimed at protecting voters’ rights, increasing election security and mandating independent redistricting, among other provisions – as a bold countermeasure to restrictive voting measures pursued in states. Republicans slammed the legislation as overreaching, arguing elections should be left to the states, not the federal government.
The legislation passed the House in a near party-line 220-210 vote in March. One Democrat joined all voting Republicans to oppose the bill.In the Senate, Democrats need the support of at least 10 Republicans to overcome a legislative hurdle called a filibuster to bring the bill to a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wants to take up the bill Tuesday. Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., seeks to tweak the measure to bring Republicans onboard.
He had criticized the For the People Act as too partisan, writing in a Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed that “we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized,” and the legislation would “divide us further” as a nation.
He offered some compromises last week. Wednesday, Manchin delivered a list of provisions in the bill he opposed and supported, saying he would not rule out voting for a modified piece of legislation.
Among Manchin’s compromises, provided to USA TODAY, he favors expanding early voting, banning partisan gerrymandering and making Election Day a public holiday. He proposed “allowable alternatives” for voter identification.
After Manchin released his document on the voting legislation, Schumer filed a fresh bill, expecting it could act as a vehicle for changes Manchin and others may seek, a Schumer spokesperson said.
Some of Manchin’s provisions include controversial items such as voter ID requirements, which Democrats see as a hurdle for people to cast a vote.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, called the proposal “serious” and said there’s “a lot we can work with,” but on the voter ID suggestion, he “didn’t think it is a perfect proposal.”
Other senators showed an openness to negotiating compromises.Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., said Thursday he has “never been opposed to voter ID, and in fact, I don’t know anybody who believes people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are.”
“But what has happened over the years is people have played with common-sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome but to select certain groups,” he continued.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saidTuesday no Republicans would vote for the bill, and Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., called it a “piece of legislation that needs to die, and die quickly.”
McConnell shot down Manchin’s attempt at a compromise Thursday, saying it still has the “rotten core” of the For the People Act – “an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections.”
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., gave USA TODAY a thumbs down on Manchin’s proposed changes Thursday. Manchin’s fellow West Virginia senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito, said his list doesn’t change her opposition to the legislation.
Manchin said McConnell “has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do. I would hope there’s enough good Republicans that understand the bedrock of our society is having accessible, open, fair and secure elections.”
Democrats plan to charge ahead with a vote as a unified bloc.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told USA TODAY the caucus was focused Thursday toward “a common cause and bringing everybody in the caucus together. I’m feeling good about that.”
Several Republican-controlled states passed election and voting security laws, which opponents argue will make it harder for people to vote – especially people of color.
Georgia voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who founded an organization to fight voter suppression, told CNN Thursday morning she would “absolutely” support the changes Manchin outlined in his memo, saying what he put “forward are some basic building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography.”
Outside Congress, the Biden administration is taking action on boosting voting rights in the face of state measures.
On June 11, Attorney General Merrick Garland affirmed that expanding voting rights is a “central pillar” to America, announcing the Justice Department would double its Civil Rights Division’s staff for “protecting the right to vote.”
Source: USA Today – Breaking News