Senate Democrats are forging ahead on their expansive voting rights legislation with a key procedural vote scheduled for Tuesday as the issue comes down to one theme: unity.
After Sen. Joe Manchin rejected the “For the People Act” and released his own proposal this week, Democrats are trying to lock down a unified front to show their commitment to a top agenda item even in the face of hard-line opposition – and an anticipated filibuster – from Republicans.
The legislation, which proposes a long series of election, ethics and government reforms, won’t be able to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a GOP filibuster and advance. But Democrats are hoping to at least win over Manchin as the party’s only holdout, aiming to stave off embarrassment on an issue they’ve championed for the past three years and instead focus the attention on a Republican-led impasse.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York announced Thursday that the upper chamber will take up the bill on Tuesday. Democrats have amplified their calls for an elections overhaul in the wake of GOP-led legislatures seeking to pass dozens of bills that would place restrictions on voters, arguing they’d place the biggest burden on voters of color.
“The Big Lie is fueling these Republican voter suppression laws from one end of America to the other. The Democratic Party is the only party standing up for democracy right now,” Schumer tweeted, referring to former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidential election. “Next week, the Senate will move forward on critical voting rights legislation.”
Over the next few days, Democrats will be working in overdrive to iron out a compromise with Manchin to get him on board for Tuesday’s vote. The West Virginia senator delivered a presentation on Thursday to colleagues about the components of his proposal, a meeting other Democratic senators described as positive and fruitful, though talks are ongoing.
Photos: Voting While Black
Manchin’s counteroffer includes provisions like establishing Election Day as a public holiday, expanding early voting and banning partisan gerrymandering. His proposed voter ID requirements, however, are likely to frustrate Democrats but offer some leniency since a voter could provide a utility bill as a form of identification.
The “For the People Act,” meanwhile, is more wide-ranging with measures on voter access, campaign finance and ethics. The bill would institute automatic and same-day voter registration, limit removing voters from voter rolls and create independent redistricting commissions to draw new district lines. All Democrats, including Manchin, support another election bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that particular bill won’t be ready until the fall.
“We’re really making headway to get all 50 Democrats on a voting rights bill,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters on Capitol Hill after Thursday’s meeting. “There’s the making there for a very, very substantive bill that can combine all 50 Democrats.”
Manchin, the only Democrat not to co-sponsor the voting bill, announced his formal opposition to the legislation earlier this month, writing in an op-ed that he couldn’t support a bill only backed by one party. His criticism highlighted the grim reality Democrats often face in a divided 50-50 Senate they barely control: Any one objector in the party can threaten the party’s top priorities.
His scaled-back counteroffer, however, ultimately didn’t convert any Republicans but garnered praise from some Democrats and voting rights activists, namely former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams.
Republicans are firmly opposed to both Democratic versions of voting reforms, likening them to a “federal takeover” of state-run elections. At a Thursday press conference, they reaffirmed their opposition to any federal legislation, indicating that a filibuster on Tuesday is all but guaranteed.
“I actually think when Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Machin’s proposal,” GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said Thursday, “it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.”