What is the ‘For the People Act’? The voting rights bill at the center of Democrats’ agenda

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — A sweeping voting rights bill that would expand access to voting across the United States, backed by Democrats, is unlikely to pass the Senate after prominent Democrats announced their opposition.

The bill, known as the “For the People Act,” would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system. Among dozens of other provisions, it would require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no-excuse absentee balloting.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said last week he would oppose the bill and outlined his opposition in an op-ed published on Sunday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, saying he is concerned by the total lack of Republican support for the measure.

“Voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,” he wrote.

Democrats have pushed the legislation as the antidote to a wave of restrictive state voting laws sweeping the country. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pledged to bring the election bill to a vote the week of June 21, testing where senators stand. The measure has been a priority for Democrats since they won their House majority in 2018. But it has taken on added urgency in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims about the 2020 election, which some say incited the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

But without Manchin’s support, the bill has no chance of advancing. Republicans are united against it.

Manchin is key to control of the U.S. Senate, which is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. He has at times proven to be a thorn in the Biden administration’s side by crossing party lines to oppose legislation or block White House appointees. Manchin said he would throw his support behind an alternative voting bill that has received broader bipartisan support, called the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Named for the late Congressman John Lewis, the bill would restore the need for certain states and counties to see approval from the federal government before re-drawing voting districts, a legal requirement that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.

Manchin’s opposition to the broader elections bill is just the latest challenge facing Democrats as they debate how to deliver their promises to voters. Manchin reiterated he would not vote “weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” a route that many Democrats see as the only realistic path forward. The filibuster rule requires 60 votes to pass most bills, and in today’s Senate, which is split 50-50, that means many of the Democrats’ biggest priorities, from voting rights to gun control, are dead on arrival.

Schumer warned Democratic colleagues that June will “test our resolve” as senators return Monday following a week-long break. Beyond voting rights, infrastructure plans and other important priorities are stalled in Congress.

Manchin and fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have frustrated their party by their defense of the filibuster. But they aren’t alone, with as many as 10 Democratic senators also reluctant to change the rules.

President Joe Biden last week said the right to vote was “precious” and must be protected, and pledged that June would be a “month of action” on Capitol Hill. “We’re not giving up,” Biden said. “I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.”

In March, House Democrats passed the voting bill by a near party-line 220-210 vote. The legislation would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, eliminate hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes.

You can read the full bill below:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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