Democrats have spent months touting an expansive proposal that would reshape U.S. elections. But with the bill’s Senate prospects growing more dire, key members of the Congressional Black Caucus are pushing to narrow their strategy.
The massive election reform measure known as H.R. 1 passed the House last month, but it has yet to win unified support from the 50-member Senate Democratic caucus amid a fierce GOP pushback effort that casts it as an aggressive consolidation of political power. With that Senate logjam in mind, a group of Black Democrats is pressing to elevate a more targeted voting rights bill — named for and championed by the late Rep. John Lewis — that they believe could be a moresuccessful sell on Capitol Hill.
The reality for Democrats is that the Lewis legislation won’t be much easier to pass than H.R. 1, which includes sweeping election administration mandates. Many in the party believe that no matter which bill the party prioritizes, success will require abolishing the filibuster that now requires 10 GOP votes to get most measures through the Senate.
Still, multiple Democrats acknowledged this week that the voting rights-only bill named for Lewis stands a better chance to make it to President Joe Biden’s desk. That bill has more Democratic support and an outside chance to win over a few Republicans, based on past votes to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.
And the stakes couldn’t be higher for Biden’s party as they search for a way to blunt the GOP-led voter crackdown efforts in state legislatures ahead of next November’s midterms….
But CBC members say they want to move quickly. Their sense of urgency is in part because states will start receiving redistricting data over the summer from the Census Bureau to use for drafting new maps for House districts. If Democrats’ Lewis bill — which would restore key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — is not passed by then, certain states will not have to get preapproval for their electoral maps affirming an absence of racial discrimination.
Those protections were eliminated after the Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act’s so-called pre-clearance formula in 2013. That decision allowed many states to change their election laws without prior federal approval, including several southern states that drew criticism from voting rights advocates. Some Black lawmakers said Congress needs to get voting rights legislation to Biden’s desk by September at the very latest, because most states will begin enacting new maps around then, while others are already beginning the process.