Like many Americans, I am thoroughly frustrated and disgusted with the state of our politics. It’s not just all about Trump’s corruption anymore. Finally, a bipartisan infrastructure bill looks like it’s going to make it over the goal line. But wait, even though 18 Republican senators support the legislation, a few GOP members want to drag the process out further, taking away precious time from other pressing Senate business before its August break.
They don’t care. In fact, that’s their game plan. They couldn’t stop the legislation, so they’ll delay its passage to put roadblocks up against other bills, like the much larger $3.5 trillion partisan infrastructure package, they oppose. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense. They can’t prevent the bipartisan bill, but if they “play their cards right,” maybe they can stop the larger legislation. The needs of their states and the country be damned!
The Democrats can play the same game. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D -CA) says the House will not vote on the bipartisan infrastructure act until the Senate passes and sends the House the larger bill as well. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense as a means of pressuring Senate Democrats to get the job done. On the other hand, isn’t it better to take the $1 trillion now, get started on repairing our crumbling infrastructure, put people back to work and, at the same time, keep fighting for approval of the larger package?
All of this political maneuvering over infrastructure has pushed the critical issue of voting rights onto the back burner. This certainly seems to have been part of the Republican calculus all along. Keep the focus on roads and bridges while GOP state legislatures decimate voting rights across the country. Meanwhile, they’ll work with moderate Democratic senators like Manchin and Sinema to maintain the filibuster and prevent the Senate from passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
By the time the Senate completes its work on the two infrastructure bills and takes it summer recess, it just may be too late to stop the Republican attack on our voting rights from succeeding. The results of the 2020 Census data will be released in a few days on August 12. This will allow state legislatures to begin the process of redistricting using gerrymandering to give them the probability of winning a greater number of Congressional seats than they would otherwise be entitled. Since Republicans control more state legislatures, they will most likely be the winners in the redistricting process.
Unless…the Senate Democrats can pass the voting rights protection bills before Republican state legislatures enact their gerrymandered redistricting boundaries. Given what we’ve seen so far, the chanced of that happening are slim.
However, there is a bit of hope. A small group of Democratic senators has been working behind the scenes to modify the For the People Act, S.1, and save our democracy. A vote on this revised bill is expected this week before the Senate takes its August break.
Still, Republicans are dead set against any federal legislation that would override the states’ right to control their elections. Their resistance to S.1 supports GOP state legislatures’ efforts to restrict Americans’ right to vote. Like the original version of S.1, the modified bill will almost certainly not receive the 60 votes needed to override a Republican filibuster.
Yet, some Democratic senators are determined to secure our voting rights. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained, “…we’re going to keep at it until we get it done.” Sen. Jeff Markley, (D-Ore.) added, “We’re very aware that action has to be extremely urgent when we return” in September.
Will the Senate Democrats act swiftly enough? And will they get all their colleagues, including Manchin and Sinema, onboard to prevent a filibuster from derailing this critical legislation? The answer to these questions may very well determine the fate of our democracy.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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