Democratic supporters starting to realize their voting rights bill is dead without changes

Democratic supporters starting to realize their voting rights bill is dead without changes
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Democrats’ voting “reform” bill known as the For the People Act isn’t dead at this point, but it’s looking for an open ICU room with a respirator available. After King Joseph of West Virginia published an op-ed in his hometown paper over the weekend, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durban had to realize that no amount of whipping was going to get them to fifty votes, to say nothing of 60. Manchin isn’t even offering some sort of alteration to the bill that would make it palatable for him. He’s just saying that if there isn’t any bipartisan support for such a voting overhaul he’s not going to support it. And it’s no longer just Manchin. Angus King said over the weekend that even he has some questions and he’s one of the bill’s sponsors. This has led some of the Democrats’ biggest cheerleaders in the media to begin tempering their expectations and suggesting that perhaps the massive tome should be trimmed down a bit to a smaller number of items that might at least draw a couple of Republicans to their side. That sound you hear in the distance is the heads of the Squad members exploding. (Huffington Post)

Even the left-leaning editorial board of The New York Times argued over the weekend that Democrats should pass a narrower bill, calling their current proposal “poorly matched to the moment,” adding that it “attempts to accomplish more than is currently feasible.” …

Manchin’s opinion piece signaled his final refusal to budge on the bill ahead of a Senate floor vote that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed to schedule for later this month. Without Manchin, Democrats wouldn’t have the 50 votes they’d need to pass the bill even if they changed Senate filibuster rules. Unless Schumer, who is up for reelection next year, wants to hold a vote just to watch the bill go down, Democrats will probably need to make some changes.

“If [Manchin] would accept some parts of it, some elements of it that we think are important, that could be a step forward,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday.

I wanted to highlight that particular article because it’s coming from the Huffington Post, a publication that’s rarely met a Democratic initiative it didn’t love. And even they seem to be able to see the writing on the wall.

The linked article is full of the usual accusations about new voting integrity laws that have been passed by primarily Republican state legislatures around the country. Rather than talking about actual election reform, they refer to such measures as “laws making it harder to vote” and “voter suppression.” These talking points are currently flooding the left side of American politics and most of the media. To these activists, it’s as if the 2020 election debacle never happened.

Rather than asking why the tidal wave of mail-in ballots last year caused such chaos, the For the People Act seeks to institute mandatory unlimited mail-in voting for all states along with automatic registration. The bill makes no mention of states having to clean up and maintain their voter rolls before dumping even larger numbers of names and addresses into the system. Lest we forget, that’s how we wound up with so many ballots being mailed to the wrong addresses last year and, in some cases, to dead people.

So what could be dumped from the bill to “slim it down” as is being suggested and actually win some of the bipartisan support that Manchin wants? Nothing really jumps to mind. It’s possible that if the Democrats just tried to pass the lobbying reform and campaign finance measures as a separate measure they might get some GOP votes, but those aren’t the elements that progressives are pushing for the hardest. What’s also missing from the conversation is the fact that a lot of conservatives wouldn’t have any interest in this bill no matter how much it may be modified. Control over how elections are handled is supposed to rest with the states, not be dictated by Washington. (Provided the state stay within established constitutional limits.) If the people of New Jersey elect representatives who pass a law saying that each polling place must prominently display a picture of Donald Duck, that’s their business.

The last thing I would urge you to keep in mind is that even if Schumer somehow cuts a deal to get Manchin and King back on the team, the For the People Act still won’t go anywhere unless they end the filibuster. And King Joseph has already stood firm in saying that he won’t support that either. So you might want to fire up the paddles on the external defibrillator. Our ICU patient is looking a bit more peaked this afternoon.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023