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Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill, Dealing Blow to Biden and Democrats

All 50 G.O.P. senators opposed the sweeping elections overhaul, leaving a long-shot bid to eliminate the filibuster as Democrats’ best remaining hope to enact legal changes.

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Tuesday blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation to come before Congress in a generation, dealing a blow to Democrats’ attempts to counter a wave of state-level ballot restrictions and supercharging a campaign to end the legislative filibuster.

President Biden and Democratic leaders said the defeat was only the beginning of their drive to steer federal voting rights legislation into law, and vowed to redouble their efforts in the weeks ahead.

“In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “We will not let it go. We will not let it die. This voter suppression cannot stand.”

But the Republican blockade in the Senate left Democrats without a clear path forward, and without a means to beat back the restrictive voting laws racing through Republican-led states. For now, it will largely be left to the Justice Department to decide whether to challenge any of the state laws in court — a time-consuming process with limited chances of success — and to a coalition of outside groups to help voters navigate the shifting rules.

Democrats’ best remaining hope to enact legal changes rests on a long-shot bid to eliminate the legislative filibuster, which Republicans used on Tuesday to block the measure, called the For the People Act. Seething progressive activists pointed to the Republicans’ refusal to even allow debate on the issue as a glaring example of why Democrats in the Senate must move to eliminate the rule and bypass the G.O.P. on a range of liberal priorities while they still control Congress and the presidency.

They argued that with former President Donald J. Trump continuing to press the false claim that the election was stolen from him — a narrative that many Republicans have perpetuated as they have pushed for new voting restrictions — Democrats in Congress could not afford to allow the voting bill to languish.

“The people did not give Democrats the House, Senate and White House to compromise with insurrectionists,” Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote on Twitter. “Abolish the filibuster so we can do the people’s work.”

Liberal activists promised a well-funded summertime blitz, replete with home-state rallies and million-dollar ad campaigns, to try to ramp up pressure on a handful of Senate Democrats opposed to changing the rules. Mounting frustration with Republicans could accelerate a growing rift between liberals and more moderate lawmakers over whether to try to pass a bipartisan infrastructure and jobs package or move unilaterally on a far more ambitious plan.

But key Democratic moderates who have defended the filibuster rule — led by Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — appeared unmoved and said their leaders should try to find narrower compromises, including on voting and infrastructure bills.

Ms. Sinema dug in against eliminating the filibuster on the eve of the vote, writing an op-ed in The Washington Post defending the 60-vote threshold. Without the rule there to force broad consensus, she argued, Congress could swing wildly every two years between enacting and then reversing liberal and conservative agenda items.

“The filibuster is needed to protect democracy, I can tell you that,” Mr. Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.

In their defeat, top Democrats appeared keen to at least claim Republicans’ unwillingness to take up the bill as a political issue. They planned to use it in the weeks and months ahead to stoke enthusiasm with their progressive base by highlighting congressional Republicans’ refusal to act to preserve voting rights at a time when their colleagues around the country are racing to clamp down on ballot access.

“Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression — to their enduring disgrace,” Mr. Schumer said. “This vote, I’m ashamed to say, is further evidence that voter suppression has become part of the official platform of the Republican Party.”

Democrats’ bill, which passed the House in March, would have ushered in the largest federally mandated expansion of voting rights since the 1960s, ended the practice of partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, forced super PACs to disclose their big donors and created a new public campaign financing system.

It would have pushed back against more than a dozen Republican-led states that have enacted laws that experts say will make it harder for people of color and young people to vote, or shift power over elections to G.O.P. legislators. Other states appear poised to follow suit, including Texas, whose Republican governor on Tuesday called a special legislative session in July, when lawmakers are expected to complete work on a voting bill Democrats temporarily blocked last month.

After months of partisan wrangling over the role of the federal government in elections, the outcome on Tuesday was hardly a surprise to either party. All 50 Senate Democrats voted to advance the federal legislation and open debate on other competing voting bills. All 50 Republicans united to deny it the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster, deriding it as a bloated federal overreach.

Republicans never seriously considered the legislation, or a narrower alternative proposed in recent days by Mr. Manchin. They mounted an aggressive campaign in congressional committees, on television and finally on the floor to portray the bill as a self-serving federalization of elections to benefit Democrats. They called Democrats’ warnings about democracy hyperbolic. And they defended their state counterparts, including arguments that the laws were needed to address nonexistent “election integrity” issues Mr. Trump raised about the 2020 election.

Senate Republicans particularly savaged provisions restructuring the Federal Election Commission to avoid deadlocks and the proposed creation of a public campaign financing system for congressional campaigns.

“These same rotten proposals have sometimes been called a massive overhaul for a broken democracy, sometimes just a modest package of tweaks for a democracy that’s working perfectly and sometimes a response to state actions, which this bill actually predates by many years,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader. “But whatever label Democrats slap on the bill, the substance remains the same.”

His top deputy, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, also threw cold water on any suggestion the two parties could come together on a narrower voting bill as long as Democrats wanted Congress to overpower the states.

“I don’t think there’s anything I’ve seen yet that doesn’t fundamentally change the way states conduct elections,” he said. “It’s sort of a line in the sand for most of our members.”

At more than 800 pages, the For the People Act was remarkably broad. It was first assembled in 2019 as a compendium of long-sought liberal election changes and campaign pledges that had energized Democrats’ anti-corruption campaign platform in the 2018 midterm elections. At the time, Democrats did not control the Senate or the White House, and so the bill served more as a statement of values than a viable piece of legislation.

The Battle Over Voting Rights

After former President Donald J. Trump returned in recent months to making false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states have marched ahead to pass laws making it harder to vote and change how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.

    • A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become central issues in American politics. As of May 14, lawmakers had passed 22 new laws in 14 states to make the process of voting more difficult, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.
    • The Basic Measures: The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.
    • More Extreme Measures: Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.
    • Pushback: This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate, including from Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would most likely face steep legal challenges.
    • Florida: Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.
    • Texas: Texas Democrats successfully blocked the state’s expansive voting bill, known as S.B. 7, in a late-night walkout and are starting a major statewide registration program focused on racially diverse communities. But Republicans in the state have pledged to return ina special session and pass a similar voting bill. S.B. 7 included new restrictions on absentee voting granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting.
    • Other States: Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. And Iowa has imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day.

    When Democrats improbably won control of them, proponents insisted that what had essentially been a messaging bill become a top legislative priority. But the approach was always flawed. Mr. Manchin did not support the legislation, and other Democrats privately expressed concerns over key provisions. State election administrators from both parties said some of its mandates were simply unworkable (Democrats proposed tweaks to alleviate their concerns). Republicans felt little pressure to back a bill of its size and partisan origins.

    Democratic leaders won Mr. Manchin’s vote on Tuesday by agreeing to consider a narrower compromise proposal he drafted in case the debate had proceeded. Mr. Manchin’s alternative would have expanded early and mail-in voting, made Election Day a federal holiday, and imposed new campaign and government ethics rules. But it cut out proposals slammed by Republicans, including one that would have neutered state voter identification laws popular with voters and another to set up a public campaign financing system.

    Mr. Manchin was not the only Democrat keen on Tuesday to project a sense of optimism and purpose, even as the party’s options dwindled. Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, announced she would use her gavel on the Rules Committee to hold a series of hearings on election issues, including a field hearing in Georgia to highlight the state’s restrictive new voting law.

    Vice President Kamala Harris, who asked to take the lead on voting issues for Mr. Biden, spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill trying to drum up support for the bill and craft some areas of bipartisan compromise. She later presided over the vote.

    “The fight is not over,” she told reporters afterward.

    Facing criticism from party activists who accused him of taking too passive a role on the issue, Mr. Biden said he would have more to say on the issue next week but vowed to fight on against the dawning of a “Jim Crow era in the 21st century.”

    “I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we are going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again — for the people, for our very democracy,” he said in a statement.

    But privately, top Democrats in Congress conceded they had few compelling options and dwindling time to act — particularly if they cannot persuade all 50 of their members to scrap the filibuster rule. The Senate will leave later this week for a two-week break. When senators return, Democratic leaders, including Mr. Biden, are eager to quickly shift to consideration of an infrastructure and jobs package that could easily consume the rest of the summer.

    They have also been advised by Democratic elections lawyers that unless a voting overhaul is signed into law by Labor Day, it stands little chance of taking effect before the 2022 midterm elections.

    Both the House and the Senate are still expected to vote this fall on another marquee voting bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill would put teeth back into a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made it harder for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to enact voting restrictions, which was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2013. While it does have some modest Republican support, it too appears to be likely doomed by the filibuster.

    “This place can always make you despondent,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “The whole exercise of being a member of this body is convincing yourself to get up another day to convince yourself that the fight is worth engaging in. But yeah, this certainly feels like an existential fight.”

    Jonathan Weisman , Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.


    Texas governor vetoes bill protecting dogs from abuse

    The governor of Texas has pulled a surprise move, vetoing a bipartisan bill that would have provided greater protections for dogs against human abuse.

    The Republican governor, Greg Abbott, vetoed a bill on Friday that would have made unlawful restraint of a dog a criminal offense, sending animal rights activists and legislators on both sides of the aisle into a fray and spurring the hashtag #AbbottHatesDogs.

    State senate bill 474, dubbed the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, aimed to ban the use of heavy chains to keep dogs tethered. The bill had bipartisan support in the legislature, passing the house 83-32 and the senate 28-3.

    In his veto, Abbott said state statutes already existed to protect dogs from animal cruelty, and the penalties proposed in the bill of $500 to $2,000, and jail time of up to 180 days, were excessive. The bill said that dog owners could have dogs outside but could not restrain them with short lines and chains or anything that could cause injury and pain to the dog.

    Dog owners would have faced a $500 penalty for a first offense and class C misdemeanor, and the next penalty would have been a class B misdemeanor, for a fine of up to $2,000 and up to three months in jail.

    “Texans love their dogs, so it is no surprise that our statutes already protect them by outlawing true animal cruelty,” he wrote. He said the bill would compel every dog owner, on pain of criminal penalties, to monitor how much time a dog spends in the bed of a truck, leash length and other things.

    Abbott said Texas was not a place for that kind of “micro-managing and over-criminalization”.


    Column: Why the Democrats’ voting rights bill will fail and what they can do about it

    The Democrats’ sprawling voting rights bill, known on Capitol Hill as HR 1, is dead.

    Officially, the bill is still clinging to life. But Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the majority party’s stubbornly maverick 50th vote, signed its writ of execution last week, complaining that the bill looked too “partisan” to him. That made HR 1’s demise inevitable even its advocates knew it was unlikely to get 50 votes in its current form — let alone survive a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome.

    The problem with HR 1 is that, unpalatable as it may be for other Democrats to admit, Manchin is right. As election law expert and reform advocate Richard L. Hasen of UC Irvine noted, the bill is “a wish list of progressive proposals.”

    It includes federally mandated automatic voter registration and minimum standards for absentee voting, good things that most Republicans oppose — ostensibly because they would be federal incursions into an area normally left to the states, but also because they might make it easier for Democrats to win elections.

    And the bill doesn’t stop there. It also includes more exotic measures like a public financing system for congressional elections, new ethics rules for the Supreme Court, and campaign finance reforms that Democrats have sought for more than a decade.

    Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against voting restrictions passed by Republican legislatures.

    HR 1’s collapse comes at a time when electoral democracy is under threat. Republican-controlled state legislatures are still passing new laws to make it harder to vote. So it’s time to stop mourning HR 1, which has always been a long shot, and start thinking about what needs to happen next.

    First, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York should take Manchin at his word that he genuinely wants to pass bipartisan voting reforms, and ask him to convene his vaunted negotiating group of 20 Senate centrists to work on them.

    Some parts of HR 1 have broader support than others, including minimum early-voting standards and ballot security measures that are eminently worth passing. In public, Schumer and other Democrats haven’t acknowledged that HR 1 can’t pass, but they are already exploring privately whether pieces of it might.

    “The issues in HR 1 are still in play,” Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Democracy at New York University told me. Weiser said she still believes Congress can and should pass the bill intact.

    Second, Democrats should expand a second election reform measure, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Manchin says he supports. The bill would update the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of racially discriminatory laws to seek Justice Department approval for new election rules. The Supreme Court effectively gutted the law in 2013, but left room for Congress to pass an improved, updated version.

    One problem with the Lewis Act is that it would apply only to new rules that states propose it would not apply to the many voting restrictions that Republican-controlled state legislatures are passing now — 22 new laws this year, with more to come. Those new statutes include the Georgia law that makes it a misdemeanor to give water to voters while they are waiting in line and prohibits early-voting sites from staying open after 7 p.m.

    “The [John Lewis] bill could be amended to make it retrospective as well as prospective,” Weiser said — although she noted that negotiating universally applicable standards for reviewing state laws would not be an easy task.

    Third, and perhaps most urgent, Congress needs to make it harder for anti-democratic politicians to overturn the results of the next presidential election. That means rewriting the 1877 Electoral Count Act, a once-forgotten but justly maligned statute that Trump tried to use last year to block the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral vote.

    The 1877 law was passed in an attempt to establish rules for Congress to decide the outcome of a presidential election when states fail to report clear or uncontested results — but in its first major test in practice, it proved to be an ungainly mess.

    The law allows state legislatures to overrule their own voters in the event of a “failed election,” without defining what a failed election might be. Last year, Trump and his allies appealed to legislators in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona — all states Biden won — to award their electoral votes to him instead. None of the legislatures complied, but there’s no guarantee that future candidates won’t try the same gambit.

    The 1877 law also allows Congress to contest and potentially discard individual states’ electoral votes through an odd, undemocratic process. That’s what eight GOP senators and 139 Republican House members were doing when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Their effort to block Biden’s election also failed, but the law remains on the books for future insurgents to use.

    There’s no guarantee, of course, that any of those reforms will attract enough Republican support in the 50-50 Senate to overcome a filibuster. But with democracy at risk, all 100 senators should be required to vote on them — and explain their decisions to the people.

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    Doyle McManus has been a reporter for the Los Angeles Times in Washington, the Middle East and many other places for more than 40 years. Born in San Francisco, he’s a graduate of Stanford University.


    Contents

    Voting rights Edit

    The bill would require states to offer same-day voter registration for federal elections [5] [4] and to permit voters to make changes to their registration at the polls. [5] It would require states to hold early voting for at least two weeks and would establish automatic voter registration [19] [5] [4] for individuals to be eligible to vote in elections for federal office in the state. [20] Under the automatic voter registration provision, eligible citizens who provide information to state agencies (including state departments of motor vehicles or public universities) would be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out of doing so. [19] The bill would also expand opportunities to vote by mail and would make Election Day a federal holiday. [19] The bill would require states to offer online voter registration, [5] [19] which has already been adopted in 39 states and the District of Columbia [19] under the bill, states would be required to establish a system to allow applications to be electronically completed, submitted, and received by election officials, and to allow registered voters to electronically update their voter registration information. [19] The bill would establish criminal penalties for persons who "corruptly hinder, interfere with, or prevent another person from registering to vote" and for voter deception or intimidation (the bill would specifically "prohibit knowing and intentional communication of false and misleading information – including about the time, place, or manner of elections, public endorsements, and the rules governing voter eligibility and voter registration – made with the intent of preventing eligible voters from casting ballots"). [19] The bill would instruct the Election Assistance Commission to adopt recommendations for states on the prevention of interference with voter registration. [19]

    The bill would also authorize 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in advance of their becoming 18. [19] [21] A 2019 proposal by Representative Ayanna Pressley to amend the bill to actually allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote did not succeed. [4] The bill would also prohibit the practice of voter caging [19] and restrict the practicing of voter-roll purges [11] by limiting states' ability to remove registered voters from the rolls [6] and setting conditions for when they could do so. [5] Specifically, the bill would require states to obtain certain information before removing voters from the rolls, and would prohibit voter purges from taking place less than six months before an election. [19] The bill prohibits any person from communicating "materially false" claims meant to prevent others from voting 60 days before an election [22] and compels the attorney general to correct such misinformation. [22] The bill also requires elections officials to timely notify any voter tagged for removal from the rolls and give them an opportunity to contest the removal or seek reinstatement of their registration. [19] It also restores voting rights to felons who complete prison terms. [4] [23]

    The bill contains various provisions to promote voting access for people with disabilities and provisions to strengthen the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) by providing additional protections for military and overseas voters. [19] To ensure UOCAVA compliance, the bill would "require all states . to send uniformed service and overseas voters' ballots at least 45 days before a federal election (provided a request was received at least 45 days before the election) require states to use and pay for express delivery and return of ballots if they fail to send ballots to uniformed and overseas voters by that deadline [and] extend the guarantee of state residency for voting purposes to all spouses and dependents of absent servicemembers (current law extends the guarantee of residency only to servicemembers themselves)." [19] The bill would create a cause of action allowing the attorney general or a private party to sue if a state violates these provisions, and would require states to send reports to Congress documenting "the availability of absentee balloting for servicemembers and overseas voters, how many ballots were transmitted, and how many were returned." [19]

    The bill would also create a Congressional task force on voting rights in American territories. [19]

    Election security Edit

    The bill contains election security provisions, including a voter verified paper ballot provision mandating the use of paper ballots that can be marked by voters either by hand or with a ballot marking device and inspected by the voter to allow any errors to be corrected before the ballot is cast. The bill would also require state officials to preserve paper ballots for recounts or audits, and to conduct a hand count of ballots for recounts and audits. [19] The bill would require the voting machines used in all federal elections to be manufactured in the U.S. [19]

    The bill would also direct the National Science Foundation "to make grants to study, test, and develop accessible paper ballot voting, verification, and casting mechanisms." [19]

    Campaign finance reform Edit

    The bill would introduce voluntary public financing for campaigns, matching small donations at a 6:1 ratio. [11] The money would come from a new "Freedom From Influence Fund" under the U.S. Treasury, which would collect funds by charging a small fee assessed on criminal and civil fines and penalties or settlements with banks and corporations that commit corporate malfeasance. [19] It also incorporates campaign finance reform provisions from the DISCLOSE Act, [11] [24] which would impose stricter limitations on foreign lobbying, require super PACs and other "dark money" organizations to disclose their donors, and restructure the Federal Election Commission to reduce partisan gridlock. The bill expresses support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court held that limits on independent political expenditures by corporations, labor unions, and other associations are unconstitutional. [6] [25]

    The bill also raises the limit the national committee of a political party can spend on a political candidate to $100,000,000.

    Ethics Edit

    The bill would require the president and vice president, as well as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, to publicly disclose their previous ten years of income tax returns. The bill would also eliminate the use of taxpayer money by members of Congress to settle employment discrimination claims, by requiring members of Congress to reimburse the Treasury for any such payments. [4] [6] [25] [19] [a] Another part of the bill would require the Judicial Conference to establish rules of ethics binding on the Supreme Court of the United States, the only court in the U.S. without a binding canon of judicial ethics. [19] [4] [6]

    The legislation would also set new disclosure rules and limitations on presidential inaugural committees. [21] Inaugural committees would be barred from taking money from corporations a contribution limit to inaugural committees of $50,000 per person would be imposed (under current law, there is no limit) contributions of more than $1,000 would have to be disclosed within one day and the use of funds donated to inaugural committees would be restricted only to use for inaugural events and for charitable contributions. [19]

    Findings in support of D.C. statehood Edit

    H.R. 1 makes findings in support of admitting the District of Columbia as a state. [19] [26] Specifically, it affirms Congress's power under the Constitution's Article IV to create a new state in the populated area that is now D.C., while retaining a separate federal district comprising the Capitol Complex, White House, National Mall, and certain other federal areas. [19] H.R. 1 does not itself admit D.C. as a state. [27] Separate legislation, H.R. 51, would actually admit D.C. to the Union. The House of Representatives passed that legislation in June 2020 on a nearly party-line vote the measure was not taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. [28] The House passage of H.R. 51 marked the first time that either chamber of Congress had passed a D.C. statehood bill, and the Democratic leadership in the House vowed to bring a D.C. statehood bill to the floor again in the 117th Congress, which they did on April 22, 2021, and which passed again by a vote of 216-208. [26] [29]

    Gerrymandering Edit

    The bill would attempt to thwart gerrymandering by requiring states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district lines, [30] except in states with only one congressional district. [4] Partisan gerrymandering (creating a map that "unduly favor[s] or disfavor[s]" one political party over another) would be prohibited. [19] The legislation would require each commission to have 15 members (five Democrats, five Republicans, and five independents) and would require proposed maps to achieve a majority vote to be accepted, with at least one vote in support from a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent. The bill would require the commissions to draw congressional district lines on a five-part criterion: "(1) population equality, (2) compliance with the Voting Rights Act, (3) compliance with additional racial requirements (no retrogression in, or dilution of, minorities’ electoral influence, including in coalition with other voters), (4) respect for political subdivisions and communities of interest, and (5) no undue advantage for any party." [30]

    Number of Federal Election Commissioners Edit

    Under current law, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has six members, no more than three of whom can be members of the same political party, with at least four votes required for any official FEC action. The complaint is that this has resulted in an impotent and gridlocked FEC, with important reforms left unaddressed, such as the updating of campaign finance law for the digital age [31] and effective regulation of political donations. [32] Some advocates for reform have blamed the Republican FEC members for unwillingness either to investigate any potential violations or to impose tougher restrictions, [33] and for loosening restrictions simply by signaling what standards they are willing to enforce. [34]

    The proposed bill would give the FEC five commissioners instead of six, reducing the likelihood of tie votes, and require that no more than two can be members of the same political party. It would set up a "Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel" consisting of an odd number of individuals selected by the president from retired federal judges, former law enforcement officials, or people with experience in election law, except anyone who holds any public office at the time of selection, but the president would not be required to choose from among those recommended by the panel. Some observers claim that there would be no built-in benefit for either party. [35]

    Support Edit

    The bill is supported by President Joe Biden, [36] [37] congressional Democrats, [38] civil rights organizations [39] such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (which includes the AFL-CIO, Common Cause, NAACP, Sierra Club, Center for Constitutional Rights, and others), [40] the League of Women Voters, [41] the Brennan Center for Justice, [42] End Citizens United, [15] Stand Up America, [43] the League of Conservation Voters, [44] and liberal political commentators. [45] [46] [47] [48] The editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post support the bill, with the former saying it would "make the American political system more accessible and accountable to the American people" and "put an end to at least some of the vile voter suppression practices that Republicans have embraced in recent years." [49] [50] The Economist has similarly voiced support for the bill, writing that "making voting easy and secure ought to be the aim of any party committed to democracy" and arguing that, while the bill "is not perfect", it would "restrict the ability of state parties to game voting laws". [51]

    Common arguments in support of the bill are that it would limit gerrymandering by mandating districts be drawn by independent redistricting commissions [52] [53] that it would make voting easier by expanding mail-in voting, requiring at least 15 consecutive days of early voting, and making Election Day a federal holiday [54] that it would prevent forms of voter suppression like voter-roll purges [55] [56] that it would reduce the influence of dark money in politics [57] [58] that it would re-enfranchise felons who have served their sentences [59] [60] and that it would reduce the influence of "big money" in politics by setting up a donation-matching fund for small-dollar donations. [61] [46] Many political commentators view the bill as a defense against an onslaught of voting restrictions pushed by state Republicans following false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election was rigged in favor of Joe Biden in this view, Republicans are pushing a false narrative about the 2020 election in order to lower citizens' confidence in the integrity of elections, and then using that lack of confidence as pretext to impose new voting restrictions. [62] [63] [55]

    A February 2019 video of Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez at a hearing in which she criticized existing campaign finance law received more than 40 million views. [64] At a March 2019 news conference before the House of Representatives passed the bill, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the bill would "restore the people's faith that government works for the public interest, the people's interests, not the special interests". [64]

    In a June 2021 open letter, more than 100 university professors and scholars urged suspension of the filibuster to pass the Act, writing, "our entire democracy is now at risk" due to Republican efforts at "radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election." [65] [66]

    Opposition Edit

    The legislation is opposed by Republican officials, [67] [68] [69] [70] conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation [71] and conservative political commentators. [72] [73] [74] The Wall Street Journal editorial board opposes the bill, contending that it was "designed to auto-enroll likely Democratic voters, enhance Democratic turnout, with no concern for ballot integrity". [73] The editors of National Review, a conservative magazine, similarly oppose the bill, calling it a "radical assault on American democracy, federalism, and free speech". [75] Common criticisms of the bill include allegations that it would undermine election security by, among other things, mandating no-excuse mail-in voting and automatic voter registration, restricting voter ID laws and voter caging, and prohibiting laws against ballot collection [76] [68] [69] that it would subvert states' rights to set election laws by mandating independent redistricting commissions, preventing states from disenfranchising felons, and setting minimum time periods states must offer early voting [77] [78] [79] [80] that its financial disclosure regulations restrict free speech rights [81] [82] [75] and that small-dollar donation matching is wasteful spending. [83] Some Republicans have also expressed concern that it would make it more challenging for Republicans to be elected. [84]

    In 2019, then-Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement criticizing the bill as a "one-sided power grab" by the Democratic Party and said it would not pass the Republican-controlled Senate. [85] He further criticized it for giving the federal government more power over elections, saying it would "[give] Washington, D.C. politicians even more control over who gets to come here [Congress] in the first place." [85] On March 6, 2019, McConnell told reporters that he would not allow the bill a vote on the Senate floor. [12] The Donald Trump White House issued a statement arguing that the bill would "micromanage" elections that are run largely by states and would establish a "costly and unnecessary program to finance political campaigns". [86] U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw falsely claimed in 2019 that the bill would "legalize" the type of fraud seen in North Carolina in 2018. [87] In March 2021, after the bill passed the House, the conservative dark money organization American Action Network launched an ad campaign against it. [37] On March 10, 2021, Senator Mike Lee said that H.R. 1 was "as if written in Hell by the Devil himself". [88] On April 6, 2021, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster invoked states' rights as reason to oppose H.R. 1, saying "H.R. 1 is a threat to the constitutional sovereignty of South Carolina". [89]

    During a May 2021 Senate Rules Committee hearing, Senator Ted Cruz falsely asserted that House Democrats had "designed" the Act such that it "directs" people "to break the law and register millions of people to vote who are not eligible to vote because they are not United States citizens" and "automatically registers to vote anyone who interacts with the government", regardless of their immigration status. The bill repeatedly states only U.S. citizens would be permitted to register. [90]

    In a June 2021 editorial for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a crucial vote for the bill to see passage in the 117th Congress, wrote "I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act." [91]

    Other Edit

    The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the 2019 version of the bill, [92] praising the "many provisions of H.R. 1 that we strongly support and have long championed" but arguing that other provisions would "unconstitutionally infringe the freedoms of speech and association" of citizens and public interest groups. [93] The ACLU specifically opposed the DISCLOSE Act provisions (which, among other things, would require organizations that engage in campaign-related disbursements to disclose the names and addresses of donors who give $10,000 or more) and the expanded Stand By Every Ad Act provisions (which would broaden existing disclosure requirements). [93]

    In 2021, the ACLU stopped short of opposing the bill. [92] The group said, "Following the Trump administration's relentless attacks on our democratic system of government, a serious legislative effort to restore and strengthen our republic is needed now more than ever, and we strongly support many of the voting rights provisions in H.R. 1" but that proposed requirements for some organizations to disclose certain donors were "onerous and dangerous". [92] Some former ACLU officials signed a joint letter from constitutional scholars that advocated for passage of the bill as "most significant pro-democracy legislation since the Voting Rights Act of 1965" and wrote, "We do not view First Amendment concerns over the precise scope of disclosure requirements affecting large donors to tax-exempt organizations operating on the margins of electoral politics as outweighing the need for expeditious enactment of the clearly desirable aspects of H.R. 1 into law." [92]

    Constitutionality Edit

    Several conservative commentators and lawyers, as well as 20 Republican State Attorneys General, have asserted that H.R. 1 is unconstitutional. Among their claims are that each state, not the federal government, has the power to oversee and regulate elections under the Constitution, and that provisions of the bill would violate the First Amendment as well as previous Supreme Court rulings such as McPherson v. Blacker and Bush v. Gore. [94] [95] [96] Some legal scholars, such as Trevor Potter and Franita Tolson, have rejected these claims, noting that the Elections Clause in Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution gives the Congress the power "at any time" to "make or alter" state election regulations. [97] [98]

    In September 2020, the progressive group Take Back the Court published a report arguing that if H.R. 1 were enacted, the Supreme Court would likely strike down its key elements (independent redistricting provisions, automatic voter registration, public campaign financing, disclosure requirements) "on the basis of implausible constitutional analysis" of the Elections Clause and the First, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. [99] The report said that "though arguments . that the Court’s majority is likely to deploy are unpersuasive, the conservative majority has issued rulings that dismantle democracy and voting rights repeatedly, often relying on questionable rationales." [99]

    According to a January 2021 poll conducted by progressive think tank Data for Progress, American voters broadly support the legislation, with nearly 67% supporting the bill, even after participants were provided opposition messaging. According to the poll, 77% of Democratic voters, 68% of independent voters, and 56% of Republican voters support the act. [100]

    A recording of a private conference call obtained by The New Yorker between a policy adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups revealed that the Koch Brothers-affiliated advocacy group Stand Together had invested "substantial resources" researching H.R. 1's popularity and message-testing opposition talking points. The group had concluded not only that the bill is broadly popular with the American public, but that opposition messaging to it is largely ineffective and so turning public opinion against it would be "incredibly difficult." It found that the argument that the bill "stops billionaires from buying elections" is particularly resonant with the public and conservatives should avoid publicly debating it, but instead attempt to stop the bill with legislative maneuvers such as the filibuster. [101]

    In January 2019, the bill passed the Democratic-majority House of Representatives on a party-line vote but was blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate. In the next Congress, in January 2021, a nearly identical bill again passed the House. [37] Senate Republicans uniformly oppose the bill under current Senate rules, they can block the bill through a filibuster, a procedural hurdle requiring a supermajority of 60 votes to advance legislation. But in order to take action on the voting-rights bill and their other legislative priorities, Democrats have been considering filibuster reform, which would change Senate rules in order to make the filibuster more difficult to use. [102] [103]

    Much attention has been paid to Senator Joe Manchin's position on H.R. 1 and, relatedly, the filibuster. [104] [105] As the most conservative Senate Democrat, Manchin would need to support filibuster reform in order for H.R. 1 to pass over unified Republican opposition. But he vehemently opposes abolishing the filibuster, [106] citing a desire for bipartisanship, but implied he was open to the idea of restoring the filibuster to its "popular imagination" where, in order to sustain a filibuster, senators must actually keep speaking on the Senate floor to extend debate and keep the bill open. Speaking to Axios's Mike Allen, Manchin said that "there should be pain to a filibuster" for those carrying it out, [107] but later clarified that he does not support changing the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation or support specific carve-outs for certain legislation like voting rights bills, as some progressive groups advocate. [17] [18] Manchin later walked back his comments on making the filibuster more painful to use, writing in an op-ed that he would not vote to weaken it at all. [108] In early June 2021, he came out against the For the People Act itself, [109] but later in the month proposed a list of changes which, if adopted, would allow him to support it. [110] Manchin's compromise proposal keeps many parts of the original bill intact (including automatic voter registration for eligible citizens, making Election Day a holiday, creating a minimum 15-day early voting period for federal elections, and a prohibition on partisan gerrymandering), but adds a mandatory nationwide voter ID requirement, [111] and drops several other provisions in the original bill, such as a requirement for states to offer no-excuse mail-in voting and same-day voter registration. [112] Manchin's proposed compromise was largely backed by Democrats and allies, [111] including prominent figures such as voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, [113] Senator Bernie Sanders, [114] and former President Barack Obama, [115] but Senate Republicans rejected it. [111] [116] [117]

    On June 22, 2021, Republicans blocked debate on the bill: [118] the motion to proceed failed on a 50–50 party-line vote, ten votes short of the 60-vote supermajority required to move forward with a debate. [118]


    WNBA players continue history of activism with support for voting rights

    Players wore shirts advocating for voting rights Tuesday.

    Senate election reform bill likely to fail amid filibuster battle

    Members of the WNBA will wear special T-shirts during games Tuesday to show support for passing expansive voting rights legislation, like the For The People Act.

    Players will wear T-shirts with the slogans like “Freedom to Vote” and “Protect Our Freedom to Vote,” along with advocating for expanded voting rights on their social media channels.

    Republicans on Tuesday, however, blocked the Senate from moving forward on the sweeping elections reform bill in a 50-50 vote along party lines. The bill fell 10 votes short of the 60 needed under Senate rules to advance legislation.

    "We have several serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "We are going to explore every last one of our options. We have to. Voting rights are too important. . "

    Despite Republicans blocking the voting rights legislation, WNBA players will continue with their voting rights advocacy. Tuesday's activism is part of a larger partnership between the WNBPA and the Rock the Vote organization called the Freedom to Vote Campaign, which seeks to galvanize young people to rally for expanded voting rights. It aims to reach more than 5 million youth.

    WNBPA Executive Director Terri Carmichael Jackson said the shirts represent a “source of strength” that occurs when WNBA players rally behind a cause en masse.

    “[WNBA] fans and followers know that these professional athletes actually dig in deep and do the work to get informed about issues before they step out there and make a statement,” Jackson told ABC News. “They make a statement so proudly, and so boldly and so visibly with those T-shirts.”

    Rock the Vote President Carolyn DeWitt said the purpose of activism throughout gameday is to build awareness about the precarity of voting rights in the United States.

    “It's after the election, most people are busy with their daily lives," DeWitt told ABC News. "They aren't necessarily aware that these extremist politicians are trying to put up barriers to silence voices, based on what we look like or where we live.'

    “And so this is the beginning of an effort to really amplify this assault on our freedom to vote so that voters are really aware of what's going on,” she added.

    This is not the first time the players of the WNBA have used their platforms to undertake both personal and unified missions related to social justice.

    Maya Moore said she would be stepping away from her career in 2019 to help exonerate Johnathan Irons, who she said was wrongly convicted, and to promote criminal justice reform.

    The WNBA announced in 2020 that it would be dedicating its season to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers earlier that year. Later that year, players from the Atlanta Dream wore shirts supporting Democrat Raphael Warnock for senator, an overt snub to the team’s co-owner and incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who had been outspoken against the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Though well-versed in social justice matters, WNBA players encounter unique obstacles in their advocacy work, according to Defector Media sports reporter Maitreya Anantharaman.

    “They are, as women athletes, in a more precarious place than some of their male counterparts in that they don't necessarily enjoy the same levels of public support and are certainly not as financially well compensated,” Anantharaman told ABC News.


    Fighting gerrymandering: The next big battle over voting rights

    What has me confused is why Schumer isn’t already lining up vote after vote on the House-passed version of this bill now. The best argument against this is that he doesn’t have the full backing of his caucus yet Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the only Democrat who isn’t a co-sponsor of the For the People Act, isn’t a fan of the bill’s omnibus approach (or, I’d bet, the lack of political cover that would come with Republicans signing on in support like he wants.)

    But the first step for getting the For the People Act through the Senate would be passing a motion to proceed, which puts a bill on the floor to debate. Simple enough, until you remember that the motion can be filibustered, raising the threshold to 60 votes under current rules.

    The point of these bills and the messaging around them is to actually cause less trust in the electoral system among Republican voters.

    In this case, that could work to Schumer’s advantage. Talking Manchin into voting to proceed will be easier than convincing him to vote for the full bill as it stands, knowing as he does that it won’t work without 10 Republicans in support. That leaves a united Democratic caucus seemingly ready to start debating the House-passed version of the bill, in the face of unified Republican opposition.

    Next, rinse and repeat two or three times over coming months to make clear that the GOP really doesn’t want to talk about voting rights, apparently. While this is happening, Democrats should continue to mark up the Senate’s version of the bill as they’re preparing to do in the Senate Rules Committee later this month. There are definitely things that need to be addressed in the House-passed version, as election experts have noted, including deadlines that state and local election administrators are unsure they can meet even if the funding they need materializes.

    That gets us to the summer, where we will be able to see the payoff for forcing Republicans to filibuster the earlier, unamended version of H.R. 1. At this point, Schumer will have hopefully gotten his chamber in order and on the same page — in some alternate universe, he will even have one or two Republicans who support the bill.


    CNBC Politics

    Read more of CNBC's politics coverage:

    Republicans have framed the legislation as a power grab by Democrats. They have argued states rather than the federal government should have leeway to set election laws.

    The GOP has also questioned the need for a new bill to protect voting rights. Republicans have downplayed the restrictive laws in states such as Georgia and Florida, which took steps including making it harder to vote absentee and limiting ballot drop-off boxes. Critics of the measures say they will disproportionately hurt voters of color and give GOP officials more power over election outcomes.

    Ahead of the Senate vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the Democratic bill a "transparently partisan plan," stressing it was in the works before Republican-led legislatures passed voting laws.

    "The Senate is only an obstacle when the policy is flawed and the process is rotten," he said.

    Schumer disputed the argument that the federal government should not exert its will on election laws. He pointed to past bills such as the Voting Rights Act that protected voters from discrimination.

    The Biden administration has formally backed the For the People Act as the president considers voting rights a key piece of his agenda. In a statement after the vote, Biden said Democrats "unanimously came together to protect the sacred right to vote."

    He later continued: "Unfortunately, a Democratic stand to protect our democracy met a solid Republican wall of opposition. Senate Republicans opposed even a debate—even considering—legislation to protect the right to vote and our democracy."

    Vice President Kamala Harris, who has met with voting rights advocates in recent weeks, presided over the Senate vote on Tuesday. She plans in the coming weeks to promote registration and work with state leaders who are pushing back on restrictive bills, NBC News reported.

    The For the People Act has little chance of revival in the current Senate. At least two Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — oppose scrapping the legislative filibuster, which would allow the party to pass more bills without Republicans.

    Liberals have urged the party to abolish the 60-vote threshold as Democrats pursue their priorities with control of the White House and narrow majorities in the House and Senate.

    But Manchin has signaled he would oppose final passage of the Democratic-led bill, potentially killing chances of its passage even without the filibuster. He has said he wants to approve a voting rights plan with GOP support, despite Republican opposition to more modest plans to protect ballot access.

    Manchin proposed a potential compromise, which includes Democratic-backed provisions such as 15 days of early voting for federal elections and automatic voter registration at state motor vehicles agencies. It also calls for voter identification requirements, which Republicans have typically supported.

    McConnell shot down the plan, arguing it contains the "rotten core" of Democrats' bill.

    Manchin did not commit until Tuesday afternoon to voting to start debate on his party's legislation. Schumer announced a deal to take up Manchin's proposal as an amendment if the For the People Act cleared the procedural vote.

    The senator's support ensured every Democrat would vote to advance the bill while Republicans blocked it.


    John Lewis Voting Rights Act

    The John Lewis Voting Rights Act (also known as H.R.4) is proposed legislation that would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, certain portions of which were struck down by the United States Supreme Court in 2013 by Shelby County v. Holder. [1] Particularly, it would bring back the Voting Rights Act of 1965's requirement that certain states pre-clear certain changes to their voting laws with the federal government. [2] It was last introduced in the 116th Congress, and is named after late Georgia Representative and voting rights activist John Lewis.

    • Committee consideration byHouse Committee on the Judiciary
    • Passed the House of Representatives on December 6, 2019 (228-187)


    Sources

    Fine, Lauren. Spokeswoman, Rep. Steve Scalise. Email exchange. 22 Mar 2021.

    Leavitt, Karoline. Spokeswoman, Rep. Elise Stefanik. Email exchange. 22 Mar 2021.

    Green, Rebecca. Professor, William & Mary Law School. Email exchange. 22 Mar 2021.

    Levitt, Justin. Professor, Loyola Marymount University. Email exchange. 22 Mar 2021.

    Levitt, Justin. “A Guide to Voter Caging.” Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. 29 Jun 2007.

    National Conference of State Legislatures. “Felon Voting Rights.” 8 Jan 2021.

    Q: Can employers, colleges and universities require COVID-19 vaccinations?



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