Republicans Suppress Vote On Voting Rights Bill
As anticipated, Senate Republicans yesterday blocked the For the People Act from being debated in a 50-50 party line vote. Vice President Kamala Harris was presiding over the Senate, but there's a good reason she didn't jump in to break the tie: We still have the filibuster, that leftover fuck-you to civil rights from the bad old days, which means nothing substantial can get done without 60 votes. Current Senate rules prohibit the cloning of vice presidents for the purpose of overcoming filibusters.
With Senators Joe Manchin ("D"- West Virginia) and (Kyrsten Sinema ("D"-Arizona) continuing to say they're dead set against scrapping the legislative filibuster, it's not clear whether Democrats can hope to pass any significant voting rights protections this session. Or maybe Manchin will follow through on his murmured openness to making changes to the filibuster that would make it harder for the minority party to bottle up legislation. Times are weird, and weird things could still happen.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the push to protect voting rights was far from over:
"Now, Republican senators may have prevented us from having a debate on voting rights today," he said. "But I want to be very clear about one thing: the fight to protect voting rights is not over. By no means. In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line."
Schumer said the Senate has "several, serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression." He said he plans to "explore every last one of our options."
Without a change in Senate rules, such as requiring Mitch McConnell to spend turtle spawning season on a beach in the South Seas, it's not clear exactly what those options might be. But maybe he has some ideas he's not telling us!
In a statement, President Joe Biden said he would continue the fight, and also gave us our headline for this story:
"Unfortunately, a Democratic stand to protect our democracy met a solid Republican wall of opposition," the president said. "Senate Republicans opposed even a debate — even considering — legislation to protect the right to vote and our democracy. It was the suppression of a bill to end voter suppression — another attack on voting rights that is sadly not unprecedented."
Biden added that he would "have more to say on this next week." For folks whose sense of time itself may have been distorted by the previous occupant of the office, that means Biden is very likely to actually say more about his plans next week.
The For the People Act would prevent much of the fuckery Republican state legislatures have been throwing at the voting process since Donald Trump gave their party brainworms and they decided to prevent free and fair elections through a panoply (indeed, a surfeit, a superabundance, or even a cornucopia) of voter suppression laws. The law would create a baseline set of standards for federal elections, like automatic voter registration, at least two weeks of early voting, making Election Day a holiday, no-excuse absentee voting, and eliminating partisan gerrymandering. No wonder Republicans hated it!
Mitch McConnell claimed allowing all Americans to vote freely constituted a "power grab" by Democrats, because voting is obviously just a scheme to get Democrats elected. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) went farther, calling the bill "a despicable, disingenuous attempt to strip states of their constitutional right to administer elections," which makes us wonder whether Republicans actually read the Constitution, which in addition to saying states can run their elections, is also very clear that "Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations."
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) said basically the same thing, only with fewer red meat adjectives, which led to a rebuke from historian Kevin M. Levin, who knows a thing or two about federal interventions to protect voters' rights, because that's right in the law's name:
Now do the Voting Rights Act of 1965. https://t.co/rGkWqe0mg4— Kevin M. Levin (@Kevin M. Levin) 1624447780.0
Joe Manchin, who says he still opposes the full version of the For the People Act, agreed to vote to move the bill forward after Democratic leadership agreed that his more limited compromise version, which still has strong protections for voting, could be added as an amendment. For all the good that did; McConnell declared Manchin's version "equally unacceptable," which certainly makes us wonder why Manchin is the only person left in America who seems to think 10 Republicans would ever vote to rein in their own partisan voting restrictions.
So where do things go from here? Darned if we know! Virtually every reform in the bill is popular in polling, even in West Virginia. But since giving up isn't an option, the only way forward is to keep pushing, through the old-fashioned methods of pressuring Congress that saved the Affordable Care Act. Remember, senators only care about your opinion if you live in their state. So if you're in Arizona or West Virginia, call Sinema and Manchin, or show up at their offices during the coming July 4 recess. If you're in New York, let Chuck Schumer know it's time to call Manchin's bluff and move toward serious filibuster reforms. And everywhere else? Get on the phone and let your Republican senators know you disagree, or let your Democratic senators know this needs to happen.
This is going to be a heavy lift. But preventing the mess Republicans want to make of democracy isn't nearly as difficult as trying to fix it if they succeed. Make noise, organize, and if you're vaccinated, get into the streets.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.