Pelosi urges House to pass voting rights bill 'now' — even as senators vow to block it


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement comes as opposition from a key Senate Democrat puts the bill's future in doubt.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said that it's imperative that Congress pass H.R.1, also known as the For the People Act, the pro-democracy bill Democrats are seeking to pass amid GOP-led voter suppression efforts across the country.

"Our mission is to amplify the voices of the grassroots, as they vote, advocate for policy and choose to run for office. H.R. 1/S. 1 must become law in order to respect the sanctity of the vote, which is the basis of our democracy," Pelosi wrote in a so-called Dear Colleague letter to her Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

Her letter comes after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WY) announced he is opposed to the legislation, which limits the use of restrictive voter ID laws, requires states to have early voting periods, and would allow anyone who wants to vote by mail in federal elections to do so, among other provisions.

Without Manchin's support, the legislation has virtually no chance of passing the evenly divided Senate. Not a single Republican lawmaker supports it, with some lying about what it does; it would likely have been blocked by filibuster even without Manchin's support.

"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," Manchin said in an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail on June 6 titled "Why I'm voting against the For the People Act."

Manchin said that he would rather pass H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, because he believes that bill has bipartisan support.

"The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update the formula states and localities must use to ensure proposed voting laws do not restrict the rights of any particular group or population. My Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has joined me in urging Senate leadership to update and pass this bill through regular order," Manchin wrote.

H.R. 4 is also likely to be blocked by filibuster, as Murkowski would not be able to force its passage without convincing nine of her GOP colleagues — none of whom have expressed support for it.

Pelosi, for her part, said in her letter that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act bill must also be passed, "but it will not be ready until the fall, and it is not a substitute for H.R. 1. Congressman John Lewis wrote 300 pages of H.R. 1 to end voter suppression.  H.R. 1/S. 1 must be passed now.  It would be our hope to have this pass the House and Senate in a bipartisan way."

Democrats have been sounding the alarm about the need for federal voting rights legislation amid a nationwide campaign by GOP state legislatures to make it harder to vote by introducing bills that would limit who can vote absentee, add voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots, and make it easier for Republican state lawmakers to simply overturn results they do not like.

The For the People Act would block nearly all of those bills, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice.

"Republicans are engaged in greatest roll back of voting rights since Reconstruction but we're supposed to believe 10 GOP senators will support new Voting Rights Act? C'mon Joe Manchin," Ari Berman, a voting rights advocate and reporter at Mother Jones, tweeted. "I don't recall Republicans asking for bipartisan support before they introduced 400 voter suppression bills & enacted 22 new voter suppression laws in 14 states so far this year."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.