WASHINGTON — Activists are ramping up the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to move on his chamber’s version of a voting rights bill, even though there’s no sign there will be enough Republican support to advance it.
Alternatively, they’re pressing for an end to the filibuster, though there’s no indication there would be enough Democratic support for that yet either.
The push comes as Democrats in Congress face tough decisions in the coming days on how to move ahead on a massive budget reconciliation bill, infrastructure legislation, disaster relief, continued spending to avert a government shutdown and help for Afghan refugees.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, has promised the Senate will act to try to move voting rights ahead too as soon as this week, though there’s no vote scheduled yet on the “Freedom to Vote Act” amid the crush of other problems.
Advocates argue that Democrats need to quickly pass the measure because Republican-led states continue to pass restrictive voting laws and are engaged in drawing new congressional and legislative districts, following the release of census numbers.
“We are going to take action to make sure we protect our democracy and fight back against the disease of voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and election subversion that is metastasizing at the state level,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
The revised voting rights bill, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, is the product of months-long negotiations with moderate Sen. Joe Manchin III, (D-W.Va.).
Grassroots advocacy groups like the Poor People’s Campaign and RepresentUs have particularly been putting pressure on Manchin and Congress to protect voting rights. If they won’t do that, then they say Democrats must end the filibuster, which means Senate bills need 60 votes to advance. However, Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.), have publicly said they won’t kill the filibuster.
“Manchin knows that his Republican friends aren’t going to support federal protection of voting rights,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber with the Poor People’s Campaign, said in a statement.
Barber held a virtual press conference Monday to push Manchin to end the filibuster and criticized his support for adding voter I.D. requirements in the Freedom to Vote Act.
“His cooperation on a bill that would expand the right to vote and protect against voter suppression in the states is important, but it’s a cynical performance of concern about the crisis we face if Manchin isn’t willing to vote with his fellow Democrats to override the Republicans’ interposition of any debate on voting rights through the coward’s filibuster.”
RepresentUs CEO Josh Silver said in a statement that “inaction is not an option.” Read more