Senate Democrats to revive voting rights bill in September after GOP blocks debate

After last-ditch attempt to save For The People Act, Democratic ‘compromise’ bill will be ‘first matter of legislative business’ when Senate returns

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 11 August 2021 15:10
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Chuck Schumer will introduce a “compromise” bill on voting rights in September following Senate Republicans’ ongoing blockade, while GOP state lawmakers advance restrictive voting laws and race towards redrawing congressional districts ahead of 2022 midterms.

During a late-night into early-morning session on 11 August, the Senate majority leader said a voting rights bill will be “the first matter of legislative business” when the upper chamber reconvenes.

“Republicans refusing to support anything on voting rights is not an excuse for Democrats to do nothing,” he said.

Republican Senators swiftly blocked Mr Schumer’s last-ditch amendments to include elements of the For The People Act – Democrats’ marquee voting rights and campaign finance reform bill – during debate over a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which passed at 4am EST after 15 hours of amendment votes.

“We have reached a point in this chamber where Republicans appear to oppose any measure no matter how common sense to protect voting rights and strengthen our democracy,” Mr Schumer said.

Senate Republicans blocked the For The People Act in June, relying on filibuster rules that require 60 votes in the evenly divided chamber to advance legislation.

Among the proposals in the bill are federal standards for mail-in and early voting, automatic voter registration, and eliminating partisan gerrymandering.

On 12 August, the US Census Bureau is set to release data that most state legislatures and local governments will use to redraw their political districts for the next 10 years. GOP lawmakers have used the process to secure a greater political footprint for decades, and the elimination of federal protections could advance the trend into critical 2020 midterm elections and beyond, at least until the once-a-decade Census returns.

Democrats have also pitched their voting rights legislation as an antidote to a nationwide campaign among GOP state lawmakers to make it more difficult to vote while also stripping election oversight from elections officials and giving it to Republican-dominated state legislatures, after Donald Trump and his allies failed to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election propelled by his persistent lie that the election was “rigged” against him.

That lie is coursing through state houses, campaign trails and in the halls of Congress, splintering into myths about the failed insurrection it inspired at the Capitol and conspiracy theories fuelling so-called “audits” of state-level election results.

Emboldened by the former president’s baseless “stolen election” narrative under the guise of preserving “election integrity” and “voter confidence” despite record-setting turnout in 2020 elections, Republican leaders in at least 17 states have enacted at least 28 new laws so far this year that restrict access to the ballot.

Nearly 400 pieces of copycat legislation were filed by Republican lawmakers within the first few months of 2021.

A parallel effort from GOP lawmakers has seen more than 200 bills in 41 states that give themselves more authority over the electoral process, with the potential to overturn the results. At least 24 of those bills have been signed into law.

Despite Republican state lawmakers’ coordinated campaign to undermine the electoral process, their congressional counterparts have accused Democrats of staging a “power grab” and a “federal government takeover,” which Texas Senator Ted Cruz echoed on 11 August.

Mr Schumer and a group of Democratic senators – including Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who opposes the For The People Act as well as attempts to eliminate filibuster rules that have allowed Republican senators to obstruct Democrats’ agenda – have met to discuss a “compromise” bill, Mr Schumer said on Wednesday.

“We have made a great deal of progress on that legislation,” he said. “We had a very good meeting as recently as yesterday afternoon, and we intend to rally around it.”

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