In the wake of the highly contested and controversial 2020 presidential election, Democrats have seized the opportunity engage in a radical overhaul of the way in which Americans vote, but a new report suggests that the coalition required to move the initiative forward to final adoption is beginning to crack.
According to The New York Times, infighting has broken out among Democrats regarding just how far they ought to go in order to achieve the expansive electoral reform agenda exemplified by the House-passed For the People Act, in a development that threatens to derail what some Republicans have referred to as a “monstrosity” that “betrays the Constitution…and undermines the integrity of the ballot box.”
While Democrat leaders — with the full support of President Joe Biden – have committed themselves to passing the Senate version of H.R. 1, legislation they claim will eliminate barriers to voting, end partisan gerrymandering, and establish a system of public campaign financing, Republicans have warned that the bill eradicates “nearly every guardrail that preserves the sanctity of the ballot box today” and amounts to “opening the floodgates for almost anyone to submit a ballot, or even multiple ballots, regardless of eligibility.”
Some Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have portrayed passage of the overhaul as akin to the critical civil rights battle of our time, suggesting that “Failure is not an option,” perhaps portending a willingness to take dramatic procedural steps to ensure success.
However, given the current composition of the Senate and the fact that there is zero Republican support for the legislation, Democrats must obtain the votes of all of its party’s 50 senators and also eliminate longstanding filibuster rules, hurdles Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has previously said he would not necessarily help them clear.
According to the Times, Manchin explained his reservations about taking such drastic steps in the realm of election law, something generally left to state legislatures, saying, “pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits, but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the U.S. government.”
As such, some Democrats have begun pushing for the bill to be split into separate pieces that may have a greater chance of passage, something that has laid bare the serious divisions with the party itself. Thus far, however, resistance to such a strategy has been signaled by powerful voices including that of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the upper chamber’s Rules Committee.
The Times suggests that other sources of dissension include concerns from Black legislators who are wary of the bill’s move toward independent congressional redistricting commissions as well as worries expressed by moderate Democrats who believe that the bill’s small-dollar public financing scheme could leave them vulnerable to primary battles launched by their far-left flank.
Though the specter of the Democrats’ behemoth election law overhaul is undeniably horrifying, the internecine disputes and procedural roadblocks that currently exist offer Republicans real hope that it will ultimately go down to defeat.