Why There’s Even More Pressure Now on Congress to Pass a Voting Rights Bill

July 9, 2021
In The News

Congress faces growing pressure to pass new federal voting legislation in the wake of a Supreme Court decision last week that will make it more difficult to challenge a spate of new Republican-backed state-level voting restrictions. Democrats already wrestling with a loaded agenda on voting rights now face the additional complication of how to address the ruling, beyond a slew of strongly worded statements. Congressional leaders say legislation to expand ballot access is their top priority in the aftermath of the 2020 election, but they have struggled to advance it. Last month, a sweeping package that would have set a new national baseline for election laws while overhauling campaign finance and government ethics provisions ran into a solid wall of Republican opposition in the closely divided Senate.... Like Democrats’ earlier bill, known as the For the People Act, the Lewis legislation faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate. There, it would require the support of all 48 Democratic senators, the two independents who caucus with them, and at least 10 Republicans in order to break a filibuster. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a Republican, has co-sponsored previous iterations of the John Lewis act and is considered likely to do so again.  Butterfield said he still believes it’s possible for negotiations to produce a bill that a sufficient number of Republican senators could support.... Many Democrats are also continuing to push for passage of the For the People Act, which Republicans have said is a partisan proposal in its current form. “There’s really nothing we can say to the voters next year if we don’t get this fundamental democracy reform legislation passed and enacted into law,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, who sponsored the bill in the U.S. House.... Voting rights advocates and many Democratic lawmakers have pressed Democratic senators to eliminate the filibuster, which would allow legislators to pass bills with a simple majority. “It’s extremely unfortunate, but I think it’s become increasingly clear that Democrats may have to go it alone,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs for the nonpartisan Common Cause, a nonprofit group that has advocated for both the For the People Act and the legislation named for Lewis.