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Senate Dems Press Ahead on Voting Bill 06/16 06:14


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats pledged to forge ahead with a likely 
doomed vote on their sprawling elections and voting bill next week, even as it 
faces universal opposition from Republicans, as well as from a key senator in 
their own party.

   Democrats have made the elections bill a major focus, touting it as the best 
way to counteract voting restrictions that have advanced in 
Republican-controlled statehouses across the U.S. in the wake of Donald Trump's 
false claims about a stolen 2020 election. With a vote nearing, a delegation of 
Texas state legislators met with senators Tuesday to make the case for 
congressional action.

   The legislators talked about their dramatic walkout last month, which 
effectively blocked Republicans in the Texas legislature from approving new 
voting limits. Carol Alvarado, a Texas state senator from Houston, said she 
hoped the visit gave Congress "some fight, some strength." Democrats gave the 
group multiple standing ovations.

   Yet Sen. Joe Manchin, a key holdout on the elections legislation, did not 
attend the lunch. And with Republicans united against the measure, Democrats 
seemed to be careening toward a failed vote next week that is certain to add to 
the frustrations of liberal activists and others in the party who fear that a 
chance to safeguard access to the ballot is slipping away. Many of them say 
Democrats should change the Senate's filibuster rules to muscle the bill 
through, but Manchin and others are against taking that step.

   Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed to press ahead. He said 
Democrats will hold a special meeting later this week to discuss the path 
forward. "We have to get it done," Schumer said.

   Schumer said Republican legislatures "are passing the most draconian 
restrictions since the beginning of Jim Crow, potentially disenfranchising tens 
of millions of Americans."

   The Democrats' bill would bring about the largest overhaul of U.S. voting in 
a generation, touching nearly every aspect of the electoral process. It would 
remove hurdles to voting erected in the name of election security, like voter 
ID laws, while curtailing the influence of big money in politics. It would 
create a nonpartisan process for redrawing congressional districts, while 
expanding mail voting and early voting, while restoring the rights of felons to 
cast a ballot, among scores of other provisions.

   Passing the bill was always going to be a huge lift in an evenly split 50-50 
Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. Senate 
procedural rules require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, and Republicans are 
united against the bill, calling it a power grab.

   "The core desire they have is to federalize all elections to try to achieve 
a benefit to the Democrats at the expense of the Republicans," Senate Minority 
Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday. "Not surprisingly, there will not 
be a single Republican who supports it."

   Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, has also said he would vote 
against the bill because it doesn't have bipartisan support.

   What exactly will be palatable to Manchin, however, remains unclear. He 
supported previous versions of the bill and has said that action on voting 
rights is needed. He is also supposed to provide a list of criteria that he 
would support or oppose to Senate leadership, though it's unclear if he has 
done so.

   Manchin has pushed for Democrats get behind a narrower piece of legislation 
that updates the Voting Rights Act to reinstate a requirement that new voting 
laws and legislative districts be subject to federal approval. His proposal 
would for the first time impose those requirements on all 50 states. But that 
bill also lacks support from Republicans, with only Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski 
supportive of the effort.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said both bills must pass.

   The voting rights bill "protects us in the current elections and must pass 
now," Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. The update to the Voting Rights 
Act, she wrote, "is the foundation for future elections and must be passed in a 
way that is constitutionally ironclad. Any premature passage could be very 
damaging to its success."

   Pelosi spoke several times with Manchin about the bill over the weekend, 
according to a senior Democratic aide who was granted anonymity to confirm the 
private calls. An aide to Pelosi declined to comment on their discussions.

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