It is in this context that GOP senators this week are expected to block Democratic moves effectively designed to protect a democracy under near-unprecedented assault.
While these legislative issues are vital to Biden’s political agenda, the clash over voting rights touches on something more fundamental to America — the maintenance of its political system.
Claims of vast voter fraud in 2020 — which Republicans say justifies restrictive voting bills from Florida to Texas and Arizona to Michigan — are false. And past statements from GOP leaders, including Trump, that allowing more people to vote will make it harder for Republicans to ever win power reveals a more genuine rationale for GOP opposition.
Schumer aims for Tuesday vote
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that he would schedule a vote on Tuesday on opening debate on voting rights. Republican senators are expected to use the filibuster rule requiring a 60-vote majority for major bills to choke off discussion about voting reform.
Ahead of the showdown, Republican senators on Sunday mobilized to also snuff out a compromise measure from moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, which surprised many on his side of the aisle last week.
The original For the People Act and Manchin’s alternative are seen by many Democratic activists as the best chance to counter scores of restrictive voting bills, including in swing states.
While telling CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that he prefers the House-passed bill, Sanders didn’t rule out Manchin’s narrower approach.
“Sounds like I’m open to doing everything I can to protect American democracy,” the former presidential candidate said.
“We can disagree on all kinds of issues, but taking away the right of people to participate in American democracy is unacceptable. And the Congress must address that in any and every way,” Sanders added.
Schumer told reporters that he was still in talks with Manchin on his compromise measure — which voting rights champion Stacey Abrams of Georgia also said she’d be open to last week. Getting Manchin on board with a voting rights bill could unite all 50 Democratic senators, a powerful symbolic move.
“There will be a vote on Tuesday, on voting rights, it’s a very simple vote … it just means to proceed to debate it. It’s hard to believe Republicans won’t even vote to proceed to debate it,” Schumer said.
Republicans dig in
But Republican senators dug in against any federal overhaul, including Manchin’s proposals.
“Unfortunately, what he does is — what the larger bill S1 does, which is it takes the election system in this country and federalizes it,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“It’s a federal takeover of our election system.”
Graham also supported the line laid down by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that no action was permissible in Washington on regulating elections.
“As much as I like Joe Manchin, the answer would be no,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Fox News Sunday” before going on to attack the original bill.
“In my view, SR-1 is the biggest power grab in the history of the country,” Graham said. “They’re trying to fix a problem most Republicans have a different view of.”
The blanket line that Washington has no role in addressing elections allows Republicans to both avoid discussing the hardline positions of their colleagues in the states, Trump’s lies on which they are based and whether the government in Washington really has power to act.
One of the core arguments going forward will be whether electoral laws in the states that threaten the most faithful application of democracy amount to exactly the kind of abuses that Hamilton appeared to have in mind.
Republican officials have repeatedly suggested that efforts to expand voting would harm their chances of ever winning elections.
And Trump himself said that if more people vote, Republicans will suffer — a warning issued long before the election when he repeatedly opposed Democratic efforts to fund mail-in voting in coronavirus relief bills.
“If you look at before and after, the things they had in there were crazy,” the then-President said on “Fox and Friends” on March 30 last year.
“They had things — levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”