Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., may have a difficult time finding enough support among progressives and moderates to get the For the People Act to President Joe Biden’s desk, The Hill reports.
While many in the progressive base of the Democratic Party support the bill, moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have withheld their backing in the hopes of getting changes made before it’s voted on. Sources told the Hill that Schumer held "the first of many discussions on the bill" last week.
"We have to find a path to 50 votes ... but we’re not there yet," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said. "We’ve got a narrow majority; we’ve got a lot of different opinions in the caucus."
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., reportedly said turning the bill into law is a major priority for the Democrat base, whose turnout will be key if the party hopes to continue controlling both houses of Congress after 2022.
"Our grassroots is going to be so discouraged if we fail to get this passed. ... There will be this sense of burnout. So we are going to lose massively in the next election if we don’t get this passed," Merkley said in a recent meeting with progressive groups, according to the Hill. "We’ll lose massively because we’re burned out by failure to deliver and we’ll lose massively because of new voting restrictions."
But Manchin indicated the Democrat party's future electoral fate was not the primary issue in his mind.
"I’m not supporting that the way it is," Manchin said. "I think it’s too darn broad and we have no bipartisan support. The country is too divided today than it's ever been."
The West Virginia Democrat has stated his preference for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which focuses on updating the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
"I don’t think we should be playing ‘Mother May I?’" said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. "If you think we should protect people’s right to vote ... then what, you should say we shouldn't protect people's right to vote unless Republicans want to?"
Murphy said that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act "doesn’t do the job" by itself, adding, "we’ve got to go broader than the John Lewis bill."
Democrats say the legislation – known as H.R. 1 and S. 1, respectively – is needed to counter several states’ new voting rules, which the party says restricts voters. Republicans argue the bill is a naked power grab, CBS News reports, and voted against an amendment that would have made several changes to the legislation.
Meanwhile, state House Republicans in New Hampshire are preparing to counter the For the People Act, arguing they see it as a federal takeover of the state’s elections, WMUR reported.
During their caucus meeting, Senate Democrats mentioned voting rights issues in their states and "why the bill was necessary to undo new Republican suppression laws in their states," according to the Hill’s source, who also said that they discussed imposing restrictions on political spending from unidentified donors.
The Hill also notes that Schumer, who’s up for reelection in 2022, could face Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in a primary challenge that could be aided if he fails to get this legislation passed. Ocasio-Cortez was one of 40 House Democrats who called on Schumer in a letter to use "all legislative and procedural means available in order to pass" the elections bill.
New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice found in an analysis earlier this month that the For the People Act is the No. 1 priority for progressives, who view it as a counter to the various state election laws recently passed by many Republican-controlled legislatures.
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