With Republican-backed voter suppression bills sweeping the country, the Democrat-majority in the U.S. Senate has quickly lost its grip on protecting voters of color and others who are marginalized at the polls.
On Tuesday, a procedural vote on the House-passed “For the People Act” proved dead on arrival after falling well short of the 60-votes needed.
“Donald Trump, with his despicable lies, has lit a fire under Republican state legislatures, and they have launched the most sweeping effort at voter suppression in 80 years,” declared Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
“The GOP doesn’t even want to debate,” Schumer asserted.
Democrats hold the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate.
However, all its members had to vote favorably for the measure, and at least 10 Republicans would have to join.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) had preemptively broken ranks with the party and said he would vote against the “For the People Act.”
Party leaders spent considerable time negotiating a compromise with Sen. Manchin on amendments he proposed. “I think we put out an awful lot of good changes, I think, hopefully, the country would agree,” Sen. Manchin said ahead of the vote. He said the changes “makes a lot of sense for a lot of voters.”
Before Democrats accepted Sen. Manchin’s amendments, he expressed a reticence to vote for the legislation.
“Some in my party have argued that now is the time to discard such bipartisan voting reforms and embrace election reforms and policies solely supported by one party. Respectfully, I do not agree,” a defiant Sen. Machin wrote in an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper in West Virginia.
Ironically, Republicans used the filibuster to torpedo the “For the People Act,” but Sen. Manchin steadfastly has ignored cries to eliminate or modify the rule.
“I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” the moderate Senator wrote.
With voter suppression bills passing in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and other GOP-led states, many Democrats in the Senate and President Joe Biden had hoped the “For the People Act” would override restrictive legislation.
The bill addresses voter access, election integrity, election security, political spending, and ethics for the three branches of government.
It would expand voter registration and voting access and limit removing voters from voter rolls.
Among other provisions, the bill provides for states to establish independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
It sets provisions related to election security, including sharing intelligence information with state election officials, protecting the safety of the voter rolls, and supporting states in securing their election systems.
The “For the People Act develops a national strategy to protect the security and integrity of U.S. democratic institutions, establishes in the legislative branch the National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions, and other provisions to improve the cybersecurity of election systems.
Even former President Barack Obama jumped into the fray this week to criticize opponents of the “For the People Act.”
“Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line and many of the same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out a solution on the floor of the Senate,” Obama said during a tele-town hall with former Attorney General Eric Holder and grassroots activists about the bill.
“That’s not acceptable.”
The 44th president continued:
“Whatever else we may argue about, the one thing we should agree on the bedrock idea that we as Americans have been taught to take pride in, this is the fact that we’re a democracy.
“The issue of voting rights might not set off alarms for most of us. The violence that occurred in the U.S. Capitol on January 6 should remind us we can’t take our democracy for granted.”
Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock insisted that his colleagues on both sides of the aisle should protect democracy.
“Protecting the sacred right to vote doesn’t just help secure our democracy. It helps ensure a future in which Americans can come together to solve our nation’s challenges,” Sen. Warnock stated.
“Congress cannot stand idly by as efforts to suppress voters’ voices are being enacted.”