Democrats’ massive election overhaul bill aimed at protecting and expanding voting rights and reforming campaign finance laws is all but guaranteed to stall in the Senate on Tuesday. It doesn’t have the support to advance over a procedural hurdle that would allow the legislation to come up for a debate.
The bill, known as the For the People Act, will fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. Republican lawmakers have rebuked the sweeping legislation, while Democrats argue it is a necessary counterweight to various restrictive voting measures red states are imposing.
The legislation would expand voter registration options, along with vote-by-mail and early voting options, and includes provisions related to election security. It aims to tackle campaign finance concerns by requiring additional disclosures of fundraising and expanding the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals.
It also would require states to establish independent redistricting commissions to handle congressional redistricting and impose new ethics rules for public officials.
House Democrats passed the bill by a vote of 220-210 in March, but the measure’s fate in the Senate was always in question, given that Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to support it to overcome a filibuster and bring the bill to a vote.
Vote to watch: Joe Manchin
West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin previously opposed the legislation because it didn’t have bipartisan support, choosing instead to support a narrower bill named after the late civil rights icon John Lewis.
But last week, Manchin floated a compromise proposal, which includes automatic voter registration through state motor vehicle departments, mandating at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections, banning partisan gerrymandering and making Election Day a public holiday. He also included a provision to require voter identification — an issue Democrats are traditionally opposed to — with “allowable alternatives” such as a utility bill to prove identity.
In the proposal fact sheet, Manchin reiterated his calls for bipartisanship.
“Congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials,” the proposal said.
But Senate Republicans remain opposed.
“Equally unacceptable, totally inappropriate,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters on Thursday. “All Republicans, I think, will oppose that as well if that were to be surfaced on the floor.”
While Manchin’s vote on the motion to proceed Tuesday will give an indication on where he personally stands on the larger piece of legislation, it doesn’t change the fact that Democrats remain 10 GOP allies short to begin debate, let alone vote, on the bill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday she doesn’t “expect there to be magical 10 votes” coming from Republicans to advance the legislation on Tuesday.
But she emphasized the importance of having a united Democratic front on the issue, nodding at Manchin’s proposal and potential vote to proceed.
“Just two weeks ago, there were questions about whether Democrats would be aligned. We certainly hope that will be the case tomorrow,” Psaki said. “It’s important to remember that this has been a 60-year battle to make voting more accessible, more available to Americans across the country, and our effort, the president’s effort, to continue that fight doesn’t stop tomorrow at all. This will be a fight of his presidency.”
She said in addition to federal legislative efforts, there’s “work to do” with voting groups and to “empower and engage [state] legislatures” and noted that Vice President Harris will be in charge of this effort moving forward.
Does this change the outlook on ending the filibuster?
Psaki said if the Tuesday vote is unsuccessful, “we suspect it will prompt a new conversation about the path forward.”
That path forward will likely include renewed discussions on abolishing the filibuster, which prevents not just election reform legislation but a whole host of other Democratic priorities from getting a vote.
“The president has spoken to his support for a ‘talking filibuster’ in the past, and at times, other members have as well,” Psaki said.
Biden has said he supports bringing back the “talking filibuster,” which would make it necessary for senators who want to hold up legislation to hold the Senate floor and speak.
Eliminating the filibuster means changing Senate rules. It would require the support of all 50 Democrats, and at least Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have repeatedly indicated their opposition to doing so.