Senate set to debate voting rights laws pushed by Democrats

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) — Senators will begin debate on voting legislation that has been heavily pushed by Democrats — and also heavily criticized by Republicans — on Tuesday.

Included in the bills are measures that would allow same-day voting registration in every state; establish a minimum 15 days of early voting; guarantee every state would allow voting by mail and make Election Day a federal holiday.

Called the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, these election provisions became overwhelmingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Civil rights leaders have called on the Senate to act swiftly, saying that states are passing laws that will make it more difficult for Black Americans and others to vote by consolidating polling locations, refusing to allow water distribution in long lines and requiring certain types of identification.

Democrats say this legislation is an important safeguard to protect the right to vote. Republicans, however, argue that these bills are a federal takeover of state elections.

Not every Democrat is on the same page, however. Two Senate Democrats, — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have been criticized for their refusal to change the filibuster to allow action on voting rights legislation. Both senators say preserving the Senate filibuster is important for fostering bipartisanship.

Because of the nature of the legislation, it’s likely debate will go into Wednesday, with a vote possibly also coming then.

This is the fifth time the Senate is trying to pass voting legislation this Congress. It was passed by the House, but stalled in the Senate. Although Democrats have a narrow Senate majority, they lack the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. has said that if Republicans filibuster and block the voting rights legislation, he will introduce a bill to change the filibuster. It is still unclear if this would mean killing the filibuster altogether or reforming it to make an exception for voting rights.

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