House Democrats Passed HR 1, Their Massive Voting Rights Bill

March 3, 2021
In The News

House Democrats have passed HR 1, their signature anti-corruption and voting rights reform bill, for the second time in two years. But even though their party now holds the majority in the Senate, the bill has a tough road ahead of it. As the numeral suggests, HR 1 and its Senate component S 1 — also known as the For the People Act — are Democrats’ first legislative priority. The sweeping democracy reform bill has been top of the list since House Democrats first took back the majority in the 2018 midterms and immediately set out to expand voting rights and curb the influence of money in politics. There’s a lot of ground covered in its nearly 800 pages, but some of its key points are creating a national system for automatic voter registration, putting in transparency requirements for political advertising, and instituting nonpartisan redistricting commissions to end partisan gerrymandering. Polling back in 2019 and now shows the bill is broadly popular with the public, but it went nowhere in the Republican-led Senate in 2019. Even with the current slim Democratic control (a 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker), it will be incredibly difficult to pass with the required 60 votes to skirt the Senate filibuster. The politics are even tighter this time around; some moderate House Democrats who voted for the bill before pushed more aggressively for changes in the current bill. The bill’s future in the Senate is also untested, as then-Majority Leader McConnell never allowed it to come to the floor in 2019. “If Mitch McConnell is not willing to provide 10 Republicans to support this landmark reform, I think Democrats are going to step back and reevaluate the situation,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the author of HR 1, told Vox in a recent interview. “There’s all manner of ways you could redesign the filibuster so [the bill] would have a path forward....” “If we can get this done and into law in the next few months, there will be enough time to implement many of these things in time for the 2022 midterm election, including how reforming how this redistricting is done,” Sarbanes said.