A unanimous front of Republican Senators on Tuesday torpedoed a wide-ranging suffrage reform of US President Biden and the Democratic Party. At a score of 50-50, Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote could not be decisive. By invoking the so-called filibuster, the Republicans had forced this bill to be passed with a 60-40 majority. Thus, it cannot even be debated now.
This smothers a federal counterattack against an equally broad Republican suffrage reform, but at the state level. Several Republican-dominated states have passed laws that make voting more difficult than during the November 2020 elections. One of the most important changes in those laws is that the decisive vote in the ratification of the results will be given to the state parliament. . With their local majority, the Republican Party actually has the final say in elections in those states.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer sounded frustrated after the vote. “Suffrage suppression is now an official part of the Republican program.” He added that this defeat does not mean the end of this bill, but that it is “a starting gun”.
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But the Democrats’ options are not many. Since Republicans are holding back on this front, the only way forward in the Senate is a vote where the filibuster cannot be invoked. For that to happen, all Democratic Senators must agree—and not all of them do. Some conservative Senators have said they do not want to dismantle the filibuster, the weapon of the minority, for this.
According to the chief spokesman for these Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, there must be a way to make the legislation acceptable to at least ten Republicans. In this line of reasoning, the filibuster forces the proposers of a bill to broaden support for it. If that road remains closed, Democrats and their allies will have to go through the courts to overturn Republican electoral laws.
Manchin presented his alternative this week for the official Democratic proposal. In this he distanced himself from one of the main pain points of the Republicans: the identification requirement. In the proposal that was put to the vote on Tuesday, it is not possible to submit proof of identity when the vote is cast, but a written statement from the voter that he or she is the one whose name is on the ballot.
Progressive Democrats defend this ID gap, arguing that not all voters have photo ID, and this is above average for poor and non-white citizens. For example, the introduction of an identity requirement is presented as a discriminatory measure. This puts the Democrats out of step with the American population, according to a poll by Monmouth University this week. While 70 percent of those surveyed said that it should be made easier for them to vote, 80 percent thought it would be no problem if a photo ID was made mandatory when voting.
Manchin received support from prominent Democrats: former President Obama and Stacey Abrams, who won the Senate seats of her home state of Georgia from Republicans with her efforts to bring voters to the polls, said they agree with Manchin’s compromise proposal.
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But Republicans don’t seem to want a compromise. The party has largely committed itself to the false rumors that former President Trump has spread about his election defeat in November. While the results have been confirmed in all states, they maintain that large-scale fraud has been committed in favor of Biden. The fact that the suspicions of fraud have been labeled as inconclusive by dozens of courts has not convinced them. According to the same Monmouth poll, 63 percent of Republican or Republican-inclined voters believe Joe Biden won the election through fraud. On that fact-devoid basis, sweeping Republican electoral laws have been passed.
Republican Party leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, came up with Manchin’s proposal with a statement why he still saw “the same rotten core” in the compromise. According to him, the Democratic federal bill is based on a sample of “cancel culture”. In a news conference with him and other Republican Senators, they clarified what they mean by that: If the right to vote can be exercised unimpeded, that means that the Democratic Party gains a “permanent majority.”