There’s really no other way to put it: Democrats suffered one of the biggest setbacks in Joe Biden’s presidency on Tuesday.
Republicans have used filibuster, the procedural maneuver that requires 60 votes to advance most laws in the US Senate, to prevent the massive Democrats’ voting rights bill from moving into a debate on the ground . No one expected it to turn out any differently, as no Republican has ever looked likely to sign the bill. But now a bigger question arises: what happens next?
Democrats pledged not to give up. “In the fight for the right to vote, this vote was the starting point, not the finish line,” Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said in Tuesday’s vote. Senate Democrats plan to hold a series of hearings in states like Georgia that have passed voting restrictions to stress the need for federal legislation. Biden also promised more action next week. “We will step up our efforts to overcome again – for the people, for our very democracy. “
It looks like the Senate will be working on a compromise bill backed by Senator Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia, who favors continuing to filibuster. Manchin last week circulated an outline of a proposal that would ban partisan gerrymandering, require automatic voter registration at motor vehicle offices, and require at least two weeks of early voting.
But the proposal doesn’t say much about protecting mail-in voting, the target of many Republican-backed bills in the states this year, even though 46 percent of Americans voted by mail in 2020. Manchin’s law would also require a voter card, not require non-excusing postal voting or ballot boxes, and allow states to continue to deny people the right to vote with crimes after they are released from prison. The proposal says little about protecting voters with disabilities, only that it “would require states to promote access to registration and voting for people with disabilities and the elderly”.
The Manchin Compromise is perhaps Democrats’ best hope for passing electoral reforms, although civil rights groups are not aligned behind it. Even before the filibuster vote, more than 20 civil rights groups, including prominent ones like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Black Voters Matter, released a statement saying they opposed Manchin’s proposal. , which they considered inadequate.
“If that’s going to be the starting point, then we’ve made sure to end up in a worse place,” Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter told me. “We’re not going to let them move the goalposts on us. Our starting point is HR1, S1, the original provisions, ”he added, referring to the original voting rights bill.
Democrats also appear likely to continue pushing for legislation that would update a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The provision, which was flawed by the Supreme Court in 2013, would require places with a history of electoral discrimination to obtain prior authorization before changing electoral procedures. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Senate Republican, said on Tuesday that she supported such a bill. While other Republicans have yet to say whether they would, there is some optimism it could be more broadly acceptable.
Yet voting rights groups fear that simply adopting this provision is not enough. While this would provide protections against future discrimination, it would not undo many of the most damaging changes that have already passed.
Nate Cohn, a writer for the New York Times, launched a third way for Democrats: a bill focused solely on protecting election administrators from partisan interference. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both of Georgia, are preparing just such legislation amid fears that interference is already happening in their state.
For these three proposals, the same problem remains: the 60 votes needed to overcome an obstruction. Vice President Kamala Harris, projecting his confidence in the coming fight during a meeting with voting advocates on Wednesday, tacitly acknowledged the barriers that remain in place.
“The point is, our fight doesn’t look much different from yesterday,” she said.
To watch also …
- Michigan’s Senate Republican-controlled Oversight Committee released a report on Wednesday that found little evidence of fraud in the state’s 2020 election.
- Wisconsin prisons have very different, and sometimes vague, policies on how to make it easier for eligible inmates to vote, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Chapter of All Voting is Local, a voting group.
- Connecticut has passed legislation that will allow those convicted of felony on parole to vote, a move that is expected to affect up to 4,000 people, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
- A wave of states have overturned laws banning those convicted of felons from voting. But the confusion remains, and only a small fraction of those eligible have been registered on the electoral roll.