Schumer says ‘everything is on the table’ to pass voting rights legislation in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., left, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., speaks during a news conference to announce the introduction of S.1., the For the People Act in Washington on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said “everything is on the table” to pass a comprehensive voting reform bill, the For the People Act, during a press conference introducing the legislation Wednesday.

“We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don’t join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take,” Schumer said. “Failure is not an option.”

The legislation, also known as S 1, includes provisions that aim to make it easier to register and vote, prevent gerrymandering, improve election cybersecurity and reform campaign finance, among other initiatives.

The faces an uphill battle in the Senate where the legislation would require a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster and move to a final vote on passage.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday he supports revising the Senate filibuster to require the minority to talk on the floor to block legislation, after previously indicating he did not support efforts to eliminate the filibuster completely.

“This issue is bigger than the filibuster,” said Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock in his first major floor speech Wednesday. “No senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy.”

“We must find a way to pass voting rights, whether we get rid of the filibuster or not,” said Warnock, who has held onto his role as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

The House passed its version of the For the People Act, H.R. 1, on March 3 with all but one Democrat voting in favor of and all Republicans voting against the legislation.

The Senate Rules Committee is set to hold a hearing for the bill on March 24.

The introduction of the For the People Act in the Senate comes amid a wave of Republican-backed voter restrictions proposed in state legislatures across the country.

Lawmakers have introduced 253 bills in 43 states with provisions that would restrict voting access as of Feb. 19, according to a Brennan Center for Justice analysis.

Voting rights activists are calling on Congress to pass voting rights legislation like the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — and Biden to use his political clout to prioritize the bills’ passage.

“It’s critically important that President Biden use his bully pulpit. He’s got the political leverage, he’s got high popularity rating to pass a historic bill,” Cliff Albright, co-founder of advocacy group Black Voters Matter, said.

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