Voting Rights Fight Heads To Senate With Committee Debate

Voting Rights Fight Heads To Senate With Committee Debate

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(CNN)Senate Democrats are moving ahead this week with a sweeping proposal to rewrite US election laws — a longshot bid meant to counteract the voter restrictions Republicans have passed at the state level.

The For the People Act, a version of which has already passed the Democrat-controlled House and is set for debate in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday, faces steep odds in the Senate. The legislation rewrites federal campaign finance laws, set out new ethics requirements for the President and Supreme Court justices and makes broad changes in election administration, from registration to early voting. It has garnered no GOP support, ensuring it won’t overcome the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster fight. And it has been met with hesitation by some Democrats, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Machin, who have shown little appetite to gut the filibuster and propel the bill forward.

But the pressure has grown on Democrats to take action as Republicans in battleground states, including Georgia, Florida and Arizona, passed new voting restrictions into law this year, with dozens of other states considering some type limitations on voting. Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing offers Democrats an opportunity to rail against the recent flood of voting restrictions, while providing an opening for more liberal members to make the case for eliminating the filibuster.

    “I think that the national government must play a role in making sure that elections are unfettered,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “I hold out hope that nobody is going to allow the filibuster to take away voting rights or any other constitutional right. The vote filibuster is all about extending debate. It is not about denying civil and basic constitutional rights.”

      Both Clyburn and Manchin have suggested they are open to a compromise on voting rights legislation, though there appears to be little movement among Republicans.

        Conservatives see defeating the bill as a top priority both to ensure the filibuster remains intact and to block what they see as federal overreach into state elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been particularly critical of the bill, calling it “a stunning one-party takeover of voting laws and elections in our country.”

        A spokesman for McConnell said the Kentucky Republican plans to be an active participant in Tuesday’s hearing. Both sides are preparing for a long-slog debate, with a slew of amendments from Republicans.

          Outside money fuels voting fight

          The upcoming Senate fight has ratcheted up the rhetoric around voting rights — with Democrats likening new restrictions to “Jim Crow 2.0” — and energized outside groups on both sides of the aisle.

          On the right, Americans for Prosperity, a group tied to Kansas billionaire Charles Koch, is spending about $500,000 on its “Don’t Bust the Filibuster” initiative — which includes radio and digital ads targeting several Democratic senators. They include Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have been cool to overturning Senate rules.

          Another group, the Election Transparency Initiative, is running its own digital campaign urging key Democratic senators to “stand strong” on the filibuster. The conservative organization, run by former Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli, launched this year to focus on promoting new election laws at the state level and combating the For the People Act proposals in Congress.

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