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Can House Dems’ Sweeping Election Reform Survive the Senate?

For the People or for the padding of politicos' pockets? Voter reform bill passes House on party lines.

by | Mar 4, 2021 | Articles, Election 2020

The highly divisive For The People Act, known as HR. 1, has passed the House of Representatives in a strictly party-line vote, 220-210. The bill claims to ensure voting rights and reform campaign financing, but opponents suggest that the true purpose is to keep Democrats in power and rewrite federal election law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) insists that the passage of the bill will tackle voter suppression, as well as “combat big, dark, special-interest money in politics and amplify the voice of the American people.” Among the sweeping reforms on the table are:

  • A 6:1 public match for small-dollar donations funded through a surcharge on penalties paid to the federal government.
  • Prohibit purges of voter rolls.
  • Require presidential nominees to release ten years of tax returns.
  • Require states to establish independent commissions for congressional redistricting.
  • Expanded mail-in, early, and absentee voting.
  • Automatic, online, and same-day voter registration.

“The right to vote is under attack,” argued Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL). “Voter suppression is alive and well. Old battles have become new again. The legacy of the foot soldiers like John Lewis requires that we pick up that baton — the baton of voter access, the baton of voter equality — and we continue the next leg. Their cause is now our cause, too.”

Follow the Money?

During the debate, House Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) stated that “This is a bill that’s about preserving the present Democratic majority. It is a bill by the majority, for the majority, and is intended to entrench the majority in power for years to come.” Which is a sentiment echoed by fellow Republican Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who accused Democrats of pushing the bill to feather their campaign coffers. He said:

“The Democrats’ number one priority is a bill that funds their own campaigns. HR. 1 would launder corporate dollars through the Treasury and use those dollars to publicly fund congressional campaigns. Based on the 2020 fundraising numbers, that creates access to more than $7 million in public funds to bolster my colleagues’ campaign coffers by providing a 6-to-1 funding match to small donations.

“I know when I speak with my constituents back home, establishing a program that helps me acquire more money for my campaign is not what they think the federal government should be working on.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) asserts that “It is an unparalleled political grab.” He argued during the debate that “It is not designed to protect Americans’ vote — it is designed to put a thumb on the scale in every election in America, so that Democrats can turn a temporary majority into permanent control.”

But will the Senate become known as the place where the Democrat agenda goes to die?

For The People Or Party?

HR. 1 is a reformulation of a bill brought before Congress two years ago when Democrats regained control of the House. Back then, it was dead in the water as the GOP retained a majority in the Senate and had President Trump as the final blocker. Now that Dems have the trifecta in D.C., they are more confident of passing the legislation. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has said that she plans to bring in companion legislation later this year through the Senate Rules Committee to enable the bill to reach the floor.

With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell already openly stating that he and his colleagues will fight the legislation, what chance does the bill really have? It is almost a certainty that the GOP will filibuster. The odds of this bill getting the necessary 60 votes are not likely, meaning one of two things could happen. Either Democrats will move to get rid of the filibuster, or depending on the results of the 2022 midterms, the For the People legislation will rear its head further down the line.

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Read more from Mark Angelides.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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