Filibuster likely to doom Democrats' compromise on voting bill


Democrats scaled back the For the People Act to get moderate members of their party on board. But it still faces a Senate filibuster.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday released a new voting rights bill that's a compromise between progressive members of the caucus and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). And now, all 50 of the party's members are behind it.

But the bill — a scaled-back version of the For the People Act that Manchin did not support and that Senate Republicans blocked from passage in June — still has virtually no chance of becoming law if the filibuster remains in place, as there are not 10 Senate Republicans who would vote to advance it.

Named the Freedom to Vote Act, the bill includes many of the For the People Act's key voting rights provisions. It creates universal automatic voter registration, mandates that every state have two weeks of early voting and same-day voter registration, allows anyone who wants to vote by mail to do so, and makes Election Day a federal holiday.

The bill also standardizes how states maintain voter registration lists and restores voting rights to the formerly imprisoned who complete their sentences.

But it changes or gets rid of some of the For the People Act's provisions, including scaling back the public financing for congressional campaigns that was proposed in the initial bill, an effort to limit the influence of special interest money in races. It also gets rid of changes to the Federal Election Commission that were meant to end gridlock on decisions concerning campaign finance.

It also throws Republicans a bone by including a voter ID provision that would create rules about what documents can be used to satisfy ID requirements.

"We reached agreement on the Freedom to Vote Act ... to strengthen our democracy," Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, who sponsored the legislation, tweeted Tuesday morning. "It's a really good bill! It stops the chaos by setting basic national voting standards, anti-gerrymandering protections & Disclose Act."

Yet the bill is almost certainly doomed to fail, as the filibuster in its current form would require Democrats to bring 10 Republicans on board, an unlikely scenario.

Republicans have campaigned heavily against the For the People Act's provisions, using over-the-top rhetoric to demonize it as they warned GOP voters of their belief that making it easier to vote could doom the party's electoral chances in the future.

Instead, the party has worked to make it harder to vote, with many GOP-controlled states passing restrictive voting laws in response to Donald Trump's 2020 election loss and lies about voter fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, said GOP opposition to voting rights is not a reason to vote against the new bill.

"Let me be clear: Republicans refusing to support anything on voting rights is not an excuse for Democrats to do nothing," Schumer said Monday in a speech on the Senate floor.

But it's unclear if the bill's failure could lead to filibuster reform.

President Joe Biden, who has been an opponent of eliminating the filibuster, reportedly told Schumer he is ready to reform the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, according to Rolling Stone.

Manchin is one of those Democrats against filibuster reform, saying Monday that he doesn't support creating a voting rights carveout for the filibuster.

"The filibuster is permanent," Manchin said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.