The Filibuster and Voting Rights

The Big Lie was not only dangerous to our country in that millions of Americans (6 in 10 Republicans) believe that President Biden stole the election, but that states are using The Big Lie to restrict voting access. However, there was no evidence of any widespread voter fraud. As of March 24, 47 states have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions, a whopping 108 more than just one month earlier — a 43% increase. Fifty-five of these bills in 24 states are already moving through state legislatures, 29 bills have already passed in one chamber, and five bills have already passed in Georgia, Iowa, Arkansas, and Utah. Very extreme bills are being considered in Texas, which has introduced 49 bills, and Arizona has introduced 23 bills. These are currently moving through the state legislatures.

This is why it’s crucial to pass the For the People Act, also known as H.R. 1. This bill would make it easier to vote in federal elections, end partisan gerrymandering (which is wrong on both sides of the aisle but predominantly favors Republicans), increase safeguards against foreign interference in our elections, overhaul federal campaign finance laws, and strengthen government ethics rules. Most of these changes would go into effect before the election in November 2022. This bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and was introduced to the Senate on March 17.

It’s important to note that it has bipartisan support. 67% of all Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, support H.R. 1. Even 57% of Republicans support this bill.

It is vital for Democrats to pass this bill, as the Republican gerrymandering of states ensures that Democrats will not win back the House in 2022… and perhaps not for a very long time. Democrats could likely lose power for decades.

So what does this have to do with the filibuster? Actually, it has everything to do with the filibuster. But first, let’s go into what the filibuster is.

In the most basic terms, the filibuster is a way for the minority party to prevent the majority party from passing laws, particularly those that may not be popular with most of the country. After all, the Senate was meant to work for their constituents in their state, not to follow party lines like the Senate operates now. The filibuster wasn’t created when the Senate was and is not in the Constitution. In fact, it was not often used until the Civil Rights movement to block legislation to give blacks more rights. (Aren’t we proud of our country’s history?) Of course, during that time, Senators had to speak to filibuster. Senators no longer have to do that because they don’t want to waste time tying up other legislation. Senators can just delay or block a bill by signaling intent that 41 Senators will refuse to vote for cloture on a bill. They can simply send an email — without any explanation, unlike the days of old. Therefore, the majority party often doesn’t introduce a bill that Republicans will filibuster until they know it can pass. This is why H.R. 1 hasn’t been introduced in the Senate despite being there for a month, even though the majority party, the Democrats, represent nearly 40 million more voters than their Republican counterparts.

H.R. 1 will need 60 votes to pass with the filibuster in place. We can count on all of the Democratic votes; however, that only gives us 50. No Republicans will vote for this bill as not voting for the bill ensures they will obtain power in the House of Representatives — perhaps for a long time. Now, even if the bill were to pass, Republicans could still take the House. However, it wouldn’t be an inevitability. The voter restriction laws states are putting into place would be turned over for federal elections, and partisan gerrymandering wouldn’t be allowed. Instead of favoring Republicans by an incredible amount, the bill would ensure a fair vote.

The solution seems easy — Democrats should eliminate the filibuster in order to pass this critical bill. Yes, there are other bills Democrats want to pass — The American Jobs Plan (vital for our country), a minimum wage hike, and maybe even D.C. statehood, upon which the House of Representatives is voting next week. But this is the most imperative bill that the Senate needs to pass in order to give both parties a fair shot at gaining power, not just Republicans. Even if no other bill gets passed, this one unquestionably has to. Without this bill passing, a loss in the House of Representatives in 2022 and the foreseeable future for Democrats is inevitable.

However, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), particularly Manchin, refuse to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, citing seeking bipartisanship. Unfortunately, Republicans in the Senate have no interest in bipartisanship. The Republican Senators, led by Mitch McConnell, have made that incredibly clear for years. And it’s important to remember that H.R. 1, in general, has bipartisan approval — 67% — throughout the country. There’s something to be said about following the people’s will, not catering to the minority, primarily when your party represents 40 million more Americans.

Manchin and Sinema are making a grave mistake. If H.R. 1 were a partisan bill, I would understand why it wouldn’t be essential to pass. However, it is imperative that it becomes law. Not only does it make partisan gerrymandering illegal — which, as I said before, I believe is wrong on both sides of the aisle, it, most importantly, makes it easier for our citizens to vote. Republicans can still win if this legislation becomes law. However, Democrats will not be able to win due to unfair methods unless H.R. 1 is signed into law by President Biden.

I admire the spirit of seeking bipartisanship. However, it is pointless to do so with people who are not interested and ignoring the fact that the bill is popular among all citizens, Democrats and Republicans alike. Instead, they are giving up their party’s leadership for a possibly significant amount of time for a useless cause.

They are destroying the future of the Democratic party by throwing away the possibility of staying in power in 2022 and ahead. We will not get another chance to get that power back.


Citations

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-march-2021

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/04/trump-supporters-lies-poll

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/policy-solutions/annotated-guide-people-act-2021

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/origins-of-filibuster-united-states-senate

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/12/us-senate-system-white-conservative-minority

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joe-manchin-filibuster-vote/2021/04/07/cdbd53c6-97da-11eb-a6d0-13d207aadb78_story.html

www.newsweek.com/gop-opposes-hr-1-poll-finds-majority-republicans-support-election-reform-bill-1572166%3famp=1

https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2021/1/22/majority-support-hr1-democracy-reforms

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