Democrats Face the Reality on Voting Rights: Congress Likely Not Coming to the Rescue
WASHINGTON – Asked about the way forward to pass new voting rights laws, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., repeatedly replied: “Failure is not an option . “
Faced with a barrage of new state laws aimed at restricting voting outside of polling day – pushed by Republican legislatures encouraged by former President Donald Trump’s rampant false allegations of fraud – most Democrats agree with Schumer that the need for federal support is essential.
But failure really is an option – it is, in fact, the most likely.
A Senate committee on Tuesday entered a partisan deadlock over the Democrats’ sprawling overhaul of the federal Elections, Ethics, and Campaign Finance Act – the Law for the People, also known as HR 1 ou S. 1 – and there is no clear way to break it. A lunch meeting Thursday of Democratic senators to discuss a way forward did not produce any breakthroughs, and lawmakers, aides and activists said they had little more than blind hope than that materializes.
Leaving the meeting, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Senior Author of The For the People Act, said progress “begins with the conversation between Senators, focuses on it, gets to know the details, all gets answers to questions. . . It’s a conversation we really started today. “
Yet the most important Democrat for the fate of the legislation vote did not even attend the meeting and therefore did not participate in the discussion. Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., was in his home state, attending an event with First Lady Jill Biden and actress Jennifer Garner – not huddled in a Capitol Hill conference room looking for a way forward.
Manchin is the only Senate Democrat not to co-sponsor the bill, and he has expressed serious reservations about the law for the people – and, more generally, moving forward on any kind of legislation. voting without the support of Republicans.
“I think it’s damn too broad, and we haven’t gotten any bipartisan support,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “The country is more divided today than it ever was.”
The People’s Law, which passed the House in March, would provide minimum standards for early voting, postal voting and automatic voter registration – overriding many provisions of new Republican state laws and expanding the ‘voter access in some democratic states, as well. But it would also impose a plethora of new federal mandates that include a non-partisan congressional redistribution, public campaign funding, “black money” disclosures and more.
Republicans attacked the bill as an unwarranted federal intrusion into the state’s electoral administration and a massive takeover by Democrats. They voted en bloc in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on Tuesday to reject it, creating a tie in the equally divided panel.
Manchin said he instead supported an alternative – a revamp of the 1965 Voting Rights Act now known as the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act, named after the late Congressman from Georgia and Civil Rights Icon, which would restore the Ministry of Justice’s oversight over voting laws in jurisdictions. with a history of discriminatory practices, including eight southern states plus Alaska.
Manchin, in fact, suggested he would extend preventive federal reviews, known as “preclearance,” to voting laws in all states and territories – a massive extension of the landmark law that broke Jim’s back. Crow.
In a joint letter to congressional leaders on Monday, pre
But, according to interviews with lawmakers, the bill is no more likely to pass an equally divided Senate than the law for the people. Manchin reiterated on Wednesday he was unwilling to overturn the filibuster, the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule, and leading Republicans said they were not interested in supporting John’s legislation Lewis.
Historically, there has been bipartisan support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The last Congressional reauthorization passed the Senate 98-0 in 2006. But the issue became bitterly partisan following the ruling. 2013 Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder, in which Chief Justice John Roberts quashed the preclearance mandate, arguing that Congress had not done enough to warrant continued vigilance in these historically discriminatory jurisdictions.
The post-Shelby reauthorization attempts garnered little GOP support, and several Republican senators this week said they saw no reason to reconsider the issue.
The Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Bill introduced to the Senate in the last Congress had a single Republican co-sponsor, Murkowski, while the House bill had no GOP co-sponsor.
Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he expected both bills to meet the same fate, referring to Bill John Lewis as “just a roundabout way of trying to do this. they’re trying to do through the front door, which is basically getting the federal government to run the electoral system. “
“If the bill was passed in the first place to get black people to vote, and they get a higher percentage than whites, what is the problem?” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said he believed the reimposition of preclearance would not be “fair” to residents of his state, which had been under federal oversight prior to the 2013 decision. .
“This whole idea is just an effort to do everything in the race,” he said. “There is no problem to solve in South Carolina. It’s a fabricated problem that makes every Republican a racist, and it doesn’t work.
There’s another problem with replacing Bill John Lewis with the Sprawling People’s Law: Technically, it doesn’t.
The bill has yet to be tabled in Congress, although the House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold several hearings in the coming weeks, hoping to bring it forward and move it forward in the House this summer. according to legislators and assistants. Part of the challenge is to compile a record of evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of federal judges, including a Supreme Court that is considerably more conservative than the one that ruled on Shelby County.
The other problem for Democrats is that even if this were to pass, it would be too late to stop the laws that have been enacted in Georgia, Texas and other states, nullifying access to early voting, voting. by mail and to other voters. access provisions guaranteed by the For the People Bill. And some Democrats are concerned its passage will simply spur more Republican states to pass strict voting restrictions before preclearance comes back into effect.
Several key Democrats said this week that both bills are necessary and that substituting them for the other is simply not possible or safe. Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Made a passionate call to action at Thursday’s closed-door meeting, attendees said, and then told reporters that abandoning the law for the people just wouldn’t do.
“The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is building the fire station for us to protect us from future fires,” Warnock said. “But the House of Democracy, as a result of these voter suppression bills across the country, is on fire right now.
His colleagues in the House agree.
“They are both extremely important. But by no means can you see one or the other substitute for the other, ”said Representative John Sarbanes, D-Md., Senior Author of HR 1.“ From a timing perspective, the one who’s ready to go now and make a huge difference is [For the People Act]. So you have to seize the opportunity when it is there.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, who leads Bill John Lewis through the House Judiciary Committee, said Democrats “have to run with what’s going to save your life, because for the moment. . . voting rights have been slaughtered across America, “And unless we get some form, lifeline, rope, tool to train, I know for sure what’s happening to my constituents – bullying. “
Yet the near-apocalyptic rhetoric Democrats have embraced on the issues of voting rights law has not translated into a foolproof strategy for success. Privately, Democrats recognize that success depends almost entirely on Manchin changing his mind on both the legislation and the need to eliminate filibuster, and they recognize that this is unlikely to happen. happen – especially in the short time Democratic leaders plan to act on later. year.
Privately, Schumer urged Democrats to stay united as they move the bill to the Senate later this year. Publicly, they are just hoping for the best and waiting for something to change then.
“We have a lot of different opinions within the caucus, and I think there is a general consensus that we need to move forward on democratic reforms. But it’s going to take us, you know, a little while to get everyone on the same page, ”said Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., The leading Democratic voting booth, was philosophical ahead of Thursday’s meeting when a reporter asked about the canyon of the political box his party appears to be in. walked around: “Some people look at a donut and just see the hole. . “
He added, “I say a prayer every morning and every night for Joe Manchin.”