The United States Senate will pass federal voting rights legislation today that is likely to pass due to unanimous Republican opposition and Senate rules that require at least 60 votes for major legislation.
The Upper House is evenly split 50-50, with Democrats in the majority due to the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris as Senate Speaker.
The major push by Democrats to pass a set of federal laws that include the Voting Freedom Act and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act stems from concerns that various Republican-led states have passed laws to the aftermath of former Donald Trump’s electoral defeat to President Joe. Biden in November 2020, seeking to limit future access to polls.
As the United States marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, the occasion was used to seek passage of the federal legislative voting rights package now before the Senate, with President Biden recently explaining the issues as he lobbied Capitol Hill lawmakers.
“I hope we can get there, but I’m not sure. But, one thing is certain, like every other civil rights bill that has come along, if we miss the first time, we might come back and try it a second time. If we miss that moment, and the state legislatures continue to change the law, not on who can vote, but on who counts the vote, count the vote, and count the vote. This is about electoral subversion and not just about whether or not people can vote.
Republican lawmakers in at least 19 states so far have passed dozens of laws since former President Trump’s defeat limiting voting hours and the use of mail-in ballots that have reached new levels of popularity during the pandemic, while these Republican-led states are also increasing voter ID requirements despite the rarity of voter ID fraud and concerns that it disproportionately targets low-income, racial and ethnic minorities. ethnic people who often cannot afford or obtain the underlying documents needed for government-issued photo ID, instead using other legal forms of identification.
The legislation would make Election Day a national holiday, expand mail-in voting, require states to make voting more accessible to people with disabilities while requiring states to expand the types of ID acceptable for voting while banning the drawing of congressional boundaries to the advantage of one party over another.
“We can eliminate the filibuster with a simple majority and then pass this bill that all Democratic senators say they support. But as you’ve heard, a few people oppose, not just the Republicans. Each of them took an immoral stand against the right to vote. But that’s not who I want to talk about today. I’m talking about two Democratic senators, Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who say they support the bill but refuse to remove the filibuster to pass. They think the real problem is not that our rights are being stolen. They think the real problem is a disease of division that can be cured with a little optimism and conversation,” says Martin Luther King III, the former civil rights leader’s son.
This is a reference to the two Democratic senators, who refused to support efforts to change the 60-vote supermajority threshold for legislative passage in the Senate.
“While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that aggravate the underlying disease of division that infects our country. The debate over the 60-vote threshold in the Senate highlights our broader challenges,” says Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Barring a seismic change, the legislation should be rejected. “President Biden has spread so much misinformation about the basic facts of state election laws that he has been called out and debunked by The Washington Post. It is misinformation. It’s a big lie. Designed to reduce confidence in our democracy…justify a top-down electoral takeover…and justify crushing the Senate itself,” said Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Unlikely passing but overall political theater as the Senate now enters the stage in this long-running battle over what the election should look like in the United States.