Senate Advances Sweeping Election Reform Bill in Partisan Vote

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
August 11, 2021 Updated: August 11, 2021

The U.S. Senate voted early Wednesday morning along party lines to advance a sweeping election reform bill that would give the federal government power over states and nationalize voting laws. Democrats voted 50 to 49 to discharge the voting rights legislation, S.1, For the People Act of 2021, from the Rules Committee for future floor debate.

The Senate will adjourn on Thursday but will gather on Monday, September 13, and begin further consideration of S.1.

After passing their $3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation package late Tuesday night also along party lines, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced a motion to advance S.1, The For The People Act of 2021, from the rules committee to the Senate floor.

Schumer said it was his “intention that the first amendment to the bill would be the text of a compromise bill that a group of senators is working on.” Then, referring to states’ effort to make voting more secure in their respective states he added, “We are witnessing the most sweeping and coordinated attacks on voting rights since the era of Jim Crow.”

Moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he will not vote on the original S.1 bill but has been working to make changes to the legislation so it can be more widely accepted by both sides, and he wants to debate his version of the bill, to amend it, and pass voting reform.

“Tonight, I’m again voting to move that process forward because I believe that we need to come together to restore people’s faith in the integrity of our elections. But I do make it very clear that I will not support The For The People Act,” Manchin said, adding, “for example, I firmly believe that we need common-sense voter ID requirements, just like we have in West Virginia, that strengthened the security of our elections, without making it harder for Americans to vote. I also firmly believe that we shouldn’t politicize the Federal Elections Commission, prohibit any guardrails on a vote by mail or prevent local election officials from doing basic maintenance of voter rolls.”

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington on June 15, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images).

Manchin urged senators to allow debate on his version of S.1, to come up with a bipartisan solution to voting integrity.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the Democrats’ action in a speech from the floor saying, “Here in the dead of night, they also want to start tearing up the ground rules of our democracy and writing new ones of course on a purely partisan basis.” He also criticized efforts by Democrats to pass the 3.5 trillion in spending via budget reconciliation, requiring only 50 votes to pass.

McConnell said that voting in favor of the hefty $3.5 trillion bill was a bad decision and is now making many Democrats nervous since elections are around the corner and that is why they want to change election laws in their favor, allowing automatic voter registration of illegal aliens, calling it “absurd” and “clumsy.”

“It’s always a temptation within the majority to want to write the rules that may make it more likely you can get the outcome you want. This isn’t going to work. It isn’t going to work tonight and it isn’t going to work when we get back,” said McConnell.

The Senate then voted 50 to 49 and the motion to discharge was agreed to at which point Schumer asked for unanimous consent to proceed to the immediate consideration of the version of the voting bill that Senate Republicans blocked in June, Manchin’s version.

Republicans see the For the People Act of 2021, in its current form, as an attempt by Democrats to grab power away from states’ by federalizing elections, making them less secure from fraud and cheating.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blocked the debate on the bill. He said, “This bill would constitute a federal government takeover of elections. … It would strike down virtually every reasonable voter integrity law in the country including voter ID laws supported by the overwhelming majority of this country, including prohibitions on ballot harvesting again widely supported by people in this country. It would mandate that felons be allowed to vote, and it would automatically register millions of illegal aliens to vote. It would profoundly undermine democracy in this country.”

Schumer said the GOP’s opposition will not deter them from considering and voting on the bill and bring their compromised voting reform bill up for a vote in first thing when the Senate convenes in September.

Schumer added that he has been in talks with Democrat Senators including, “Klobuchar and Merkley, Manchin and Warnock and Padilla, Kane, King, and Tester, to discuss a compromise voting rights bill. We’ve made a great deal of progress on that legislation.” Adding, “Voting rights will be the first matter of legislative business when the Senate returns to session in September.”

Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq