Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act

Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.
Greg Nash

The Senate will vote on the Freedom to Vote Act — Democrats’ pared down version of their For the People Act — next week, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter to his caucus members, Schumer said he plans to call for a cloture vote on the bill Monday evening.

Democrats would need 10 Republicans to join them in overcoming the procedural hurdle, which requires 60 votes. That’s highly unlikely to happen, though Schumer pointed to centrist Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) efforts to negotiate with GOP senators.

“Senator Manchin has been engaged in conversations with our Republicans colleagues in hopes of advancing solutions on a bipartisan basis to ensure all Americans have their voice heard in our democracy,” Schumer said in the correspondence.

“I hope that our Republican colleagues will join us in good faith, and as I have said before, if they have ideas on how to improve the legislation, we are prepared to hear them, debate them, and if they are in line with the goals of the legislation, include them in the bill.”

Manchin has earned the consternation of his fellow Democrats in recent months for balking at supporting multiple legislative priorities, including President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending measure.

Additionally, while Manchin has voiced support for the passage of Democrats’ other voting rights bill, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, he was slow to support the For the People Act and has refused to back creating a filibuster exception for the issue.

Lack of consensus among their caucus led a group of Senate Democrats to draft new legislation that pulled many policy points from H.R. 1 while narrowing the scope of federal oversight.

Manchin was a part of this process, joining fellow Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) and Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who conferences with Democrats. 

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.

Moreover, 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 the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts.

Manchin has espoused confidence that a bipartisan solution to voting rights is possible, but there is little evidence to suggest that Republicans are willing to play ball with either bill.

“I don’t know how that’s going. My sense is not well,” King told reporters two weeks ago.

King 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.”

Hundreds of proposals aimed at making access to the ballot box more difficult have been introduced in GOP-controlled statehouses around the country since the beginning of the year.

Per the Brennan Center for Justice, 33 such bills across 19 states have become law this year.

Democrats have labeled the wave of legislation as fallout from last November’s presidential election that was punctuated by former President Trump’s “big lie” — the repeated baseless claim that widespread voter fraud, which is exceedingly rare in American elections, cost him the race.

Conversely, Republicans have defended the laws, insisting that greater election integrity is needed and that Democrats’ voting rights bills are blatant power grabs meant to federalize elections.

Tags Alex Padilla Amy Klobuchar Angus King Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Filibuster Jeff Merkley Joe Biden Joe Manchin Jon Tester Raphael Warnock Tim Kaine voting rights
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