King says voting rights bill could be brought to Senate floor next week

King says voting rights bill could be brought to Senate floor next week
© Greg Nash

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Democrats inch closer to legislative deal Angus King: Losing climate provisions in reconciliation bill weakens Biden's hands in Glasgow Sunday shows - Democrats' spending plan in the spotlight MORE (I-Maine), a co-sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act, the pared-down version of the For the People Act, said Thursday that the legislation could be brought to the floor for consideration next week, representing another legislative priority that Democrats have failed to achieve so far this session.

Despite moderate Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money — Democrats craft billionaire tax with deal in reach Democrats face critical 72 hours Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Manchin nixes Medicare expansion MORE (D-W.Va.) being one of several co-sponsors of the bill, the proposal has a good chance of being stonewalled by a Republican filibuster just like its predecessor.

On a phone call with reporters, King explained that Manchin, who had problems with the scope of the For the People Act but has voiced his support for the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, committed to whipping up GOP support for the bill.

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“I don't know how that's going, my sense is not well,” King said.

Later in the call, he added: “I've talked to several Republicans myself, and I'm not getting very far. … I don't think the Republicans here are interested in short-circuiting what their brothers and sisters are doing in statehouses across the country.”

Since the beginning of the year, conservative-controlled state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills that would restrict access to the ballot box in some way.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 30 of these bills across 18 states have become law, including in Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas, key battleground states.

Voting rights advocates and liberal lawmakers argue that the bills are not only fallout from November’s contentious presidential election, but will disparately affect communities of color.

Republicans have defended the measures, citing the need for greater election integrity while labeling the For the People Act as a blatant power grab by Democrats that would federalize elections.

King noted that the Freedom to Vote Act was structured to be a compromise that omitted the most controversial aspects of H.R. 1.

“This isn't a radical bill,” the senator said.

The legislation would give all voters access to a minimum of 15 early voting days and same-day registration, while making Election Day a federal holiday.

Additionally, it would require states to have automatic voter registration and restore the right to vote to Americans with felony convictions upon completion of their prison sentence.

States would also be prohibited from gerrymandering congressional districts with the intent of “materially favoring or disfavoring any political party,” according to the bill text.

Recently, the battle over voting rights has been overshadowed by the partisan brawl over the country’s debt ceiling and funding the government.

Democrats have also dealt with infighting over President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE’s bipartisan infrastructure deal and his $3.5 trillion budget resolution.

Nonetheless, the Maine Independent indicated that there’s a good chance the legislation makes it to the floor next week, though he noted that he had yet to confirm the schedule with Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenators weigh future of methane fee in spending bill Biden hopes for deal on economic agenda before Europe trip The Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with Iron Dome funding MORE (N.Y.).

“We're going from one crisis to another,” King said.

“It's a shame that this subject, which should be front and center, is being sort of lost in the [government] shutdown, debt ceiling, reconciliation, but this is critical.”