Senate Dems Press Ahead on Voting Bill 06/16 06:14
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats pledged to forge ahead with a likely
doomed vote on their sprawling elections and voting bill next week, even as it
faces universal opposition from Republicans, as well as from a key senator in
their own party.
Democrats have made the elections bill a major focus, touting it as the best
way to counteract voting restrictions that have advanced in
Republican-controlled statehouses across the U.S. in the wake of Donald Trump's
false claims about a stolen 2020 election. With a vote nearing, a delegation of
Texas state legislators met with senators Tuesday to make the case for
The legislators talked about their dramatic walkout last month, which
effectively blocked Republicans in the Texas legislature from approving new
voting limits. Carol Alvarado, a Texas state senator from Houston, said she
hoped the visit gave Congress "some fight, some strength." Democrats gave the
group multiple standing ovations.
Yet Sen. Joe Manchin, a key holdout on the elections legislation, did not
attend the lunch. And with Republicans united against the measure, Democrats
seemed to be careening toward a failed vote next week that is certain to add to
the frustrations of liberal activists and others in the party who fear that a
chance to safeguard access to the ballot is slipping away. Many of them say
Democrats should change the Senate's filibuster rules to muscle the bill
through, but Manchin and others are against taking that step.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed to press ahead. He said
Democrats will hold a special meeting later this week to discuss the path
forward. "We have to get it done," Schumer said.
Schumer said Republican legislatures "are passing the most draconian
restrictions since the beginning of Jim Crow, potentially disenfranchising tens
of millions of Americans."
The Democrats' bill would bring about the largest overhaul of U.S. voting in
a generation, touching nearly every aspect of the electoral process. It would
remove hurdles to voting erected in the name of election security, like voter
ID laws, while curtailing the influence of big money in politics. It would
create a nonpartisan process for redrawing congressional districts, while
expanding mail voting and early voting, while restoring the rights of felons to
cast a ballot, among scores of other provisions.
Passing the bill was always going to be a huge lift in an evenly split 50-50
Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. Senate
procedural rules require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and Republicans are
united against the bill, calling it a power grab.
"The core desire they have is to federalize all elections to try to achieve
a benefit to the Democrats at the expense of the Republicans," Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. "Not surprisingly, there will not
be a single Republican who supports it."
Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, has also said he would vote
against the bill because it doesn't have bipartisan support.
What exactly will be palatable to Manchin, however, remains unclear. He
supported previous versions of the bill and has said that action on voting
rights is needed. He is also supposed to provide a list of criteria that he
would support or oppose to Senate leadership, though it's unclear if he has
Manchin has pushed for Democrats get behind a narrower piece of legislation
that updates the Voting Rights Act to reinstate a requirement that new voting
laws and legislative districts be subject to federal approval. His proposal
would for the first time impose those requirements on all 50 states. But that
bill also lacks support from Republicans, with only Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski
supportive of the effort.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said both bills must pass.
The voting rights bill "protects us in the current elections and must pass
now," Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. The update to the Voting Rights
Act, she wrote, "is the foundation for future elections and must be passed in a
way that is constitutionally ironclad. Any premature passage could be very
damaging to its success."
Pelosi spoke several times with Manchin about the bill over the weekend,
according to a senior Democratic aide who was granted anonymity to confirm the
private calls. An aide to Pelosi declined to comment on their discussions.