WASHINGTON (AP) – House Democrats passed sweeping voting and ethics legislation over unanimous Republican opposition, advancing to the Senate what would be the largest revision of U.S. election law in at least a generation.
House Resolution 1, which touches on virtually every aspect of the electoral process, was approved Wednesday night on an almost party line of 220-210 votes. It would limit biased gerrymandering of congressional districts, knock down barriers to voting and bring transparency into a dark campaign funding system that allows wealthy donors to pursue political purposes anonymously.
The bill is a strong counterweight to voting rights restrictions that are advancing in Republican-controlled state houses across the country in the wake of Donald Trump̵
The efforts in the outcome are monumental and create the basic idea that a person is equal to one vote and entails the potential to shape election results in the coming years. It also provides a test of how hard President Joe Biden and his party are willing to fight for their priorities as well as those of their constituents.
This bill “will put an end to voter repression, which we see being debated right now,” the rep said. Nikema Williams, a new congresswoman representing the district of Georgia held by late voting rights champion John Lewis for years. “This bill is the ‘good problems’ he fought for all his life.”
To Republicans, however, it will license unwanted federal interference in the power of states to conduct their own elections – ultimately in favor of Democrats through higher turnout, especially among minorities.
“Democrats want to use their razor-sharp majority not to pass bills to earn voters’ trust, but to ensure they do not lose more seats in the next election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said from the chamber on Tuesday.
The measure has been a priority for Democrats since they won their House majority in 2018. But it has gotten extra urgent in the wake of Trump’s false claims., which fueled the deadly storm of the US Capitol in January.
Courts and even Trump’s last justice minister, William Barr, found his claims about the election without merit. But, spurred on by these lies, state lawmakers across the United States have filed more than 200 bills in 43 states that would restrict access to the vote, according to a statement from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
In Iowa, the legislature voted to cut absent and personal early voting, while preventing local election officials from creating more seats to make it easier to vote early. In Georgia, Parliament on Monday voted in favor of legislation requiring identification to vote by mail it would also allow counties to cancel early voting on Sundays when many black voters poll by church.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court appeared ready to maintain voting restrictions in Arizona, which could make it harder to challenge state election laws in the future.
When asked why advocates tried to uphold Arizona laws that restrict who can hand out absent ballots and allow ballots to be thrown out if cast in the wrong area, a state Republican attorney was astonishingly clear.
“Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage over Democrats,” said attorney Michael Carvin. “Politics is a zero-sum game.”
Match lines are quickly drawn by external groups that plan to spend millions of dollars on advertising and outreach campaigns.
Republicans ”are not even creepy about it. They say ‘quiet parts’ out loud, “said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, a left-wing group that aims to limit the influence of corporate money in politics. Her organization has launched a $ 10 million effort to support the bill. “For them, it is not about protecting our democracy or protecting our elections. This is about pure biased political gain.”
The Conservatives, meanwhile, are mobilizing a $ 5 million press campaign and urging moderate Senate Democrats to oppose the rule changes needed to implement the measure.
“HR 1 is not about making elections better,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump administration Homeland Security official who is leading the effort. “It simply came to our notice then. It is meant for dirty choices. ”
So what’s actually in the bill?
HR 1 would require states to automatically register eligible voters as well as offer registration the same day. It would limit the ability of states to clear registered voters from their rolls and restore former criminal voting rights. Among dozens of other provisions, it would also require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no apology for absent voting.
At the forefront of a resumption of district boundaries once a decade, typically a violent biased affair, the bill would mandate non-partisan commissions to handle the process instead of state legislators.
Many Republican opponents in Congress have focused on narrower aspects, such as The creation of a public funding system for congressional campaigns that would be funded through fines and settlement revenues raised from bad business actors.
They have also attacked an attempt to modernize the toothless electoral member of the federal government. That agency, the Federal Election Commission, has been gripped by biased stalemate for years, allowing violations of campaign funding legislation to become most uncontrolled.
Another section that has been a focus of Republican Irish would force the disclosure of donors to political “dark money,” which is a magnet for wealthy interests seeking to influence the political process while remaining anonymous.
Yet the biggest obstacles lie ahead in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats.
On some laws, it only requires 51 votes to pass, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. On a deeply divisive bill like this, they would need 60 votes under Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster – a vote they are unlikely to reach.
Some Democrats have discussed options such as lowering the threshold for breaking a filibuster or creating a solution that makes it possible to exempt priority legislation, including a separate law on John Lewis voting rights. The bite has been cool with filibuster reforms, and Democratic congressmen say the talks are fluid but ongoing.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not committed to a time frame, but promised to “figure out the best way to get big, bold actions on a whole lot of fronts.”
He said: “We will not become the legislative cemetery. … People are forced to vote on them, yes or no, on a whole lot of very important and serious issues. ”
AP Congress correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.