Schumer Set to Challenge GOP With Vote to Advance Election Bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will hold a vote Tuesday on whether to advance sweeping voting-rights legislation to the Senate floor, and the lone Democrat who has withheld his support said he could stick with his party to start debate.

Senate Democrats met behind closed doors Thursday to try to hatch a compromise acceptable to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has put forth a series of modifications to the election law proposal that all other Democrats back and which was a core party campaign promise in 2020.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” Manchin said as he left the meeting. Asked if he would back bringing up the Democratic measure, he said he could do that while talks continue on a possible substitute.

“A substitute that keeps everything open, I think we all would want to do that,” he said. “And then you can air your differences what you might have or what your concerns are or what your thoughts might be.”

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Although Republicans are poised to block a debate on the legislation, having Manchin’s vote to bring it to the floor would be a demonstration of party unity Schumer needs to put the blame for blocking the bill, a version of which has already passed in the House, entirely on the Senate GOP.

“Today’s meeting was about Joe presenting what he wanted, and we’re analyzing it,” Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said. “There is the makings there for a very, very substantive bill that can combine all 50 Democrats.”

Manchin released on Wednesday dozens of provisions that he could support in a compromise bill to address voting rights, ethics and campaign finance. Some are likely to appeal to Democrats, such as minimum standards for early voting, a ban on partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and a federal holiday for election day. But the proposal also includes voter identification requirements, which generally are opposed by many Democrats.

Voting Access

Schumer on Thursday said Senate Republicans are aligned with the goals of state legislators from their party who are drafting laws that he said seek to curtail voting by minorities, college students, urban residents and lower-income adults with their new laws. New state laws that cut voting hours, bar drive-through voting and require absentee ballots to be approved by a notary public are among those creating specially targeted impediments, he said.

“This is not about voter fraud,” Schumer said. “It’s about suppressing the vote, particularly of Democratic-leaning voters. It’s despicable. It’s antidemocratic.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he opposes Manchin’s proposal, noting it has been endorsed by voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, who has been working to help boost the Democratic vote. Among other things, he said, it would mandate that computers be used to draw congressional district boundaries rather than state legislatures.

It’s “unacceptable, totally inappropriate. All Republicans I think will oppose that if that were to be surfaced on the floor.”

The Senate bill, known as the For the People Act, S.1, is a high priority for Democrats amid efforts by Republican-dominated state legislatures -- spurred in part by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about fraud in the 2020 election -- to enact ballot restrictions. It would set national standards for election laws, including no-excuse-needed mail-in voting and automatic voter registration, require new campaign finance disclosures and impose new ethics provisions for all three branches of the federal government.

Manchin’s proposals include free U.S. mail for absentee ballots, cybersecurity standards for election vendors and the counting of provisional ballots regardless of which precinct they are cast in.

Manchin also backed new campaign finance disclosure requirements, limits on lobbying for foreign entities and disclosure and divestment rules for the president and vice president, including the disclosure of tax returns.

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