After their “For the People Act” failed to get enough Republican support to move to a vote, Democrats are already screaming for the Senate to end the filibuster. But are the provisions of the act worth destroying the most significant Senate rule focused on building bipartisan solutions? What exactly does the act do that is vital enough to warrant such drastic measures? Here’s a list of the act’s main provisions:
- Expand early voting (something states have been doing on their own anyway)
- Allow for same-day voter registration (something 20 states have already, including conservative states like Utah and Wyoming)
- Enact automatic registration for federal elections
- Lower ID requirements (Who does this help?)
- Require states to have electronic voter registration
- Require states to register eligible felons after their time is served
Does anything on this list seem like such an emergency it’s worth eliminating the filibuster in order to turn the Senate into a partisan hack-shop like the House? According to some Democrats, the answer is yes. The WSJ reports:
Some Democrats have said the voting-rights bill is so important the Senate should change chamber rules to end the 60-vote requirement of the legislative filibuster and allow the bill to advance by simple majority.
“Voting rights are preservative of all other rights,” said Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who has voiced concerns about a recently passed law in his state that would allow the State Election Board, under certain conditions, to remove and replace local election superintendents.
But Democratic centrists, most prominently Mr. Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have rejected ending the filibuster, though some have suggested ways to weaken it. In an opinion article published in the Washington Post late Monday, Ms. Sinema reiterated her opposition to scotching the filibuster, saying it would undercut bipartisanship and could lead to “wild swings between opposing policy poles.” It would take a majority vote to change the rules.
Mr. Schumer brought the legislation to the floor after working to navigate his Democrats through the contours of the voting measure. Mr. Manchin negotiated with Democrats all weekend and in the hours before the vote on the contents of a compromise.
The Democrats agree on some basic elements of any legislation, including 15 days of continuous, early voting, including on weekends, and automatic voter registration for anyone with a driver’s license, along with making Election Day a national holiday.
But Mr. Manchin was at odds with other Democrats on voter ID requirements and on allowing absentee voting for any reason. Democrats have sought to allow voters to attest to their identities through a signature instead of an ID, and to mandate no-excuse absentee voting, which would essentially require widespread mail-in voting. Mr. Manchin wants to preserve the ability of states to mandate voter IDs—even while allowing utility bills to count as a form of identification—and to set limits on absentee voting.
The voting measure has inflamed Republicans, who accused Democrats of engaging in demagoguery.
“This bill is brazen,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), ticking off a list of provisions in the Democratic bill that he called damaging, including one that would shrink the Federal Election Commission to five from six members, which he said would enable the president to turn the agency into a weapon against political rivals. Mr. Cruz accused Democrats of “deliberately inflaming racial tensions” by attacking policies like requiring voter identification that Republicans say are designed to protect the integrity of the vote.
Mr. Biden, who has said he would be open to changes in the filibuster, met with Mr. Manchin on Monday afternoon at the White House and “conveyed that he sees voting rights as one of the most urgent issues facing our nation during his administration, and made it clear how important he thinks it is that the Senate find a path forward on this issue,” a White House official said.
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