‘For the People Act’ faces uphill fight going forward
WASHINGTON—Senate Democrats on Tuesday tackled a massive voting reforms bill in committee in a heated daylong debate.
But the final vote on the bill by the Senate Rules Committee was a 9-9 tie, which means Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer likely would have to use a Senate procedure to bring the legislation to the floor as he’s vowed to do.
The failure of the final vote as well as a key manager’s amendment by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the panel, showed the uphill battle ahead for the legislation known as the For the People Act.
The bill, S. 1, is a priority for Democrats after state GOP legislators introduced or passed more than 360 bills in 47 states to put in place new voting provisions, including strict voter I.D. access and restrictions on early and mail-in voting. Democrats say these laws will disenfranchise voters, particularly low income people and voters of color.
Even if the bill is brought to the floor by Schumer, Democrats who control the Senate with a 50-50 split don’t have enough votes to get past an expected filibuster, and it’s unclear how they will pass it and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Every Democrat has co-sponsored the measure except for Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat.
Democrats said Congress urgently needs to take action. The House passed its version of the sweeping voting rights, redistricting, campaign finance and ethics reform package earlier this spring on a 220-210 vote.
“These bills that are moving in state capitals across America are not empty threats—they are real efforts to stop people from voting,” Klobuchar said in her opening remarks.
She pointed to Georgia’s recent voting law and another that Florida’s governor signed last week to limit access to ballot boxes, as well as a similar bill that is currently making its way through the Texas legislature.
“We need to take these threats to our democracy head on with immediate action to restore Americans’ confidence in our political system,” she said.
The amendment proposed by Klobuchar was in response to concerns about the federal legislation expressed by local elections officials.
It aimed to give states more time to implement same day voter registration and automatic voter registration. It would also strengthen existing federal requirements for the number of accessible devices in polling locations for people with disabilities.
“We also shortened both of the windows post-Election Day for accepting ballots and resolving signature discrepancies, because we heard from election officials that having these processes go on for too long after Election Day could delay states from certifying the results,” she said.
During the markup, Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, clashed over the bill, with Schumer accusing McConnell of trying to suppress voters, particularly voters of color, to benefit his party. Read more