For the People Act Poised to Hit Filibuster in Senate

President Biden on Tuesday urged the Senate to pass the voting rights bill and “send it to my desk.”,


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Manchin supports advancing the For the People Act, but it still faces a filibuster.


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The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to begin debate on a proposal that will reform U.S. elections. All 50 Senate Republicans oppose the measure and are expected to filibuster the bill.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
  • June 22, 2021, 8:21 a.m. ET

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said Tuesday he would vote to open debate on Democrats’ signature voting rights bill, uniting the party in the face of certain defeat as Republicans vow to block the legislation from advancing.

Mr. Manchin, who had been the sole Democratic holdout on the measure, last week released a wish list of substantial changes to the bill, including eliminating provisions that would create a public campaign financing program and neuter state voter identification laws. Democrats signaled they were open to incorporating his proposals.

“These reasonable changes have moved the bill forward and to a place worthy of debate on the Senate floor,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement released by his office Tuesday afternoon. “This process would allow both Republicans and Democrats to offer amendments to further change the bill. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues refused to allow debate of this legislation despite the reasonable changes made to focus the bill on the core issues facing our democracy.”

All 50 Senate Republicans oppose the measure and are expected to vote against taking it up. Under the Senate’s filibuster rule, it takes 60 votes to advance a measure over senators’ objections.

President Biden on Tuesday urged the Senate to pass the voting rights bill and “send it to my desk.”

“We can’t sit idly by while democracy is in peril — here, in America,” Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter. “We need to protect the sacred right to vote and ensure ‘We the People’ choose our leaders, the very foundation on which our democracy rests.”

The doomed Democratic effort to pass sweeping federal voting rights legislation comes as Republican-led states rush to enact restrictive voting laws, Democrats have presented the legislation as the party’s best chance to undo them, expand ballot access and limit the impact of special interests on the political process.

“We can argue what should be done to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy, but don’t you think we should be able to debate the issue?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Monday in a last-ditch appeal to Republicans to let the bill proceed.

Mr. Schumer is left with one option to try to pass the legislation: blowing up the legislative filibuster. Progressives, who have clamored to do so since Democrats won a narrow Senate majority in January, argued that the vote would help make their case. But a handful of moderates, led by Mr. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, have rejected those appeals.

With the path forward so murky, top Democrats are framing Tuesday’s vote as a moral victory. The White House endorsed a compromise framework proposed last week by Mr. Manchin under the assumption that it would be enough to persuade him to vote yes.

“What we are measuring, I think, is: Is the Democratic Party united? We weren’t as of a couple of weeks ago,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said before acknowledging the vote would fail.

She suggested the outcome might “change the conversation on the Hill” around the filibuster, but offered no clear next steps.

Mr. Manchin opposed key planks in the original For the People Act as too intrusive into the rights of states to regulate their elections. His proposal would eliminate a public campaign financing program and put in place a national voter identification requirement while expanding what documents voters can present as proof of identify.

But it would preserve other measures, like tough new ethics rules and an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. It would also expand early voting, make Election Day a federal holiday and make it easier to vote by mail.

On Monday, former President Barack Obama tepidly endorsed Mr. Manchin’s version as the best chance to pass a new federal voting law.

“The bill that’s going to be debated, including Senator Manchin’s changes, would address, as Eric mentioned, many of the concerns and issues that I was just discussing,” Mr. Obama said during a call with former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and supporters. “I’ll be honest, the bill doesn’t have everything I’d like to see in a voting rights bill. It doesn’t address every problem.”

Republicans are united in their opposition to both Democrats’ original bill and Mr. Manchin’s changes, describing them as poorly drafted and overly prescriptive.

“The real driving force behind S. 1 is the desire to rig the rules of American elections permanently, permanently in Democrats’ favor,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, referring to the measure by its bill number. “That’s why the Senate will give this disastrous proposal no quarter.”

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