Senate Prepares for 'Showdown' Over Elections Bill Overhaul


The White House said Monday it views the Senate’s work on an elections bill overhaul and changes being offered by Sen. Joe Manchin as a “step forward,” even though the Democrats’ priority legislation is expected to be blocked by a Republican filibuster.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the revisions proposed by Manchin are a compromise, another step as Democrats work to alter the country’s election system in what President Joe Biden sees as the “fight of his presidency.”

“The president’s effort to continue that fight doesn’t stop tomorrow at all,” Psaki said.

The Senate is preparing for a showdown Tuesday, a test vote of the For the People Act, a sweeping elections bill that would be the largest overhaul of U.S. voting procedures in a generation.

A top priority for Democrats is to ensure mail-in ballot access, which was made popular during the pandemic. It is opposed by Republicans as a federal overreach into state systems.

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Manchin had been the sole holdout among Democrats in the Senate, declining to back his party’s bill. But late last week the West Virginian aired a list of proposed changes that are being well received by his party, and a nod from the White House will give them currency.

He has suggested adding a national voter ID requirement, which has been popular among Republicans, and dropping other measures from the bill like its proposed public financing of campaigns.

Among advocates of overhauling America’s elections system, one key voice, Democrat Stacey Abrams, has said she could support Manchin’s proposal.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, it is clear Democrats in the split 50-50 Senate will be unable to open debate, blocked by a filibuster by Republicans. In the Senate, it takes 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, and without any Republican support, the Democrats cannot move forward.

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“Will the Republicans let us debate it?” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as he opened the chamber Monday.

“We’re about to find out.”

The Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said no Republican will support the bill, calling the legislation a “partisan power grab” that would erode local control of elections.

While some Democrats want to change the filibuster rules to push the elections bill through, Manchin and other senators are opposed to taking that next move. Psaki said the administration’s hope is that the chamber’s 50 Democrats are aligned and that an unsuccessful vote will prompt the search for a new path.

The White House did not give its full support to the Manchin alternative. But Psaki said the president “is appreciative of the efforts by Senator Manchin and others to continue to make progress on voting rights which he feels is a huge priority.”

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As the Senate action churns, more changes could be coming to the bill.

Democrats claim they want to protect against intimidation at the polls. They propose enhancing penalties for those who would threaten or intimidate election workers and creating a “buffer zone” between election workers and poll watchers, among other possible changes.

Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, a lead sponsor of the bill, said the effort underway is to “respond to the growing threat of election subversion in GOP-led states across the country.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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