White House says fight far from over, couches response to defeat in racial tones.
On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Republicans blocked debate on the Democrats’ “For the People Act” (S. 1) that sought to implement federal election standards on states, many argued that would undermine Voter ID and election integrity laws across the nation.
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith joined the other 48 Republican Senators in voting not to proceed to debate on the legislation, effectively filibustering and preventing Democrats from reaching the 60 vote threshold needed to move the bill forward in the chamber. All 50 Democrats voted in favor of the act.
Mississippi’s senior Senator called the S. 1 “a truly radical piece of legislation.”
“S.1 seeks to transform the way we do elections in this country – and to do so on a narrow, partisan basis,” Senator Wicker said in a floor speech ahead of the vote.
Wicker pointed out the clear unpopularity of this legislative proposal, citing that 81% of Americans are concerned about allowing voters to vote on Election Day without photo identification.
“It is clear that S.1 is not popular,” Wicker continued, noting that even the liberal ACLU opposed the legislation. “It is squarely at odds with the views of the majority of the American people.”
Senator Wicker said this bill is based on a myth, a lie that voting rights are under attack in states like Georgia and Texas. He said that notion was “utterly absurd.”
“The election reforms recently passed in Georgia, for example, have actually expanded access to the ballot box – making it easier to vote, but also making it harder to cheat,” Wicker said. “The new Georgia law does this, among other things. It expands the window for early voting. The new Georgia law allows no-excuse mail-in voting to continue. It adds 100 new ballot drop boxes. It allows voters to get a government-issued ID for free. And it also increases transparency in elections – for example, making sure the ballot counting does not stop in the middle of the night, as we’ve seen in past elections. These reforms are entirely reasonable and widely popular across America and were based on broad input from local stakeholders.”
Senator Hyde-Smith labeled the legislation a “blatant Democrat power grab,” saying that she opposed the Democrats’ so-called election reform bill because it is anything but reform.
“Our right to vote is sacred. Improving voter integrity and election integrity should be bipartisan. S.1 is anything but bipartisan, and that is why the Senate is right to block it,” Hyde-Smith said.
The junior Senator pointed to a pair of major flaws among many in the Democrat bill, namely nullifying state Voter ID laws and forcing taxpayers to finance political campaigns.
“Our state implemented a widely accepted and successful Voter ID law without impeding anyone who is legally eligible to vote. In fact, most Americans support Voter ID requirements,” Hyde-Smith said. “If S.1 became law, an individual could walk into a polling place, register and vote on the spot—without ever showing any proof of identity or residency. If that isn’t a recipe for fraud, I don’t know what is.”
Regarding taxpayers financing the campaigns of politicians and challengers, Hyde-Smith cited a review showing the current sitting U.S. Senate could get more than $1.8 billion in public funds for their campaigns for the next election cycle if they all qualified for and participated in the public financing program. This does not include amounts that would be made available for challengers.
“We’re talking about a lot of your money,” Hyde-Smith said. “Our national debt is approaching $30 trillion. The last thing we should be doing is putting taxpayers on the hook to finance politicians’ campaigns.”
Democrats did not take the defeat well. Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed that the legislation would be back before the body.
President Joe Biden issued a statement from the White House where he said this fight is far from over, saying the Republican opposition “was the suppression of a bill to end voter suppression—another attack on voting rights that is sadly not unprecedented.” As is now often the case with this Administration, Biden couched the defeat in racial tones.
“In supporting the For the People Act and defending the rights of voters, they stood united for democracy. They stood against the ongoing assault of voter suppression that represents a Jim Crow era in the 21st Century,” President Biden’s statement read, adding, “The creed “We Shall Overcome” is a longtime mainstay of the Civil Rights Movement. By coming together, Democrats took the next step forward in this continuous struggle—not just on Capitol Hill, but across the country—and a step forward to honor all those who came before us, people of all races and ages, who sacrificed and died to protect this sacred right.”