Washington, D.C. — Tuesday, members of the Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously voted to begin debate on legislation to strengthen U.S. democracy. Known as the For the People Act, this transformative reform package would strengthen voting rights, stop partisan gerrymandering, reduce dark money in politics, and impose stronger ethics restrictions on public officials.
Despite unified Democratic support to begin debate on this legislation, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block this popular bill that contains scores of bipartisan policies. Not one Republican senator voted to even begin debate on this vitally important set of people-powered reforms.
Republican senators’ opposition to strengthening U.S. democracy is consistent with the more than 400 voter suppression bills filed by Republican state legislators around the country. Anti-voter laws have already been enacted in states such as Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, and likely soon in Texas. These measures, built on the lie of widespread election fraud that led to the January 6 insurrection, are aimed largely at Black and brown communities that have long been kept from fully participating in U.S. democracy.
For several years, the Center for American Progress has advocated for pro-voter and anti-corruption policies and has been a leading member of the Declaration for American Democracy—a diverse coalition of more than 220 organizations representing tens of millions of Americans in demanding strong, clear solutions to make U.S. democracy more representative of everyday Americans. Only when Congress passes democracy reforms can elected leaders finally unblock progress on policies that Americans care about, such as well-paying jobs, clean air and water, and racial justice.
Ben Olinsky, senior vice president for policy and strategy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement after Tuesday’s Senate vote:
“Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to block debate on this bill at a time when state legislatures across the nation are restricting voting rights—especially for communities of color—and giving power to partisan politicians to overturn valid election results. Senators of both parties swore an oath to defend the Constitution and therefore to protect Americans’ fundamental right to vote. That means that Senate Republicans should put their nation before party. The right to vote provides the very basis for the legitimacy of our democracy. Make no mistake: Today’s vote is only one step on a much longer path toward passage of landmark pro-democracy legislation. The unity of Senate Democrats is a clear sign that momentum has shifted in favor of fortifying our democracy”.
Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had this reaction to Tuesday’s vote:
“Today’s vote was politically and substantively significant. It showed that Senate Democrats are united in recognizing the intensifying threats facing our democracy and the urgent need to address them. The House of Representatives, the White House, and now the full Senate Democratic caucus are pushing forward for action. There will be twists and turns, but it is clear that this legislation has strong and growing momentum, even in the face of the Senate and its procedures. Now even more intense negotiations and legislative activity should begin.
“This is a moment of grave danger for our democracy. The right to vote is under assault. Extreme gerrymandering threatens to distort congressional elections for a decade. And big money is swamping our politics. The For the People Act, along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, is our last best hope of meeting this moment. There is no substitute for federal legislative action, and there is no imaginary bill that will somehow melt Republican resistance in DC and win sixty votes in this environment. Time is short. What’s at stake is the freedom to vote and the chance for fair representation for millions of Americans.
“This bill is extraordinarily popular with the American people. It has momentum in Congress. Senate Democrats have shown they understand what’s at stake, and now they need to show that they’re willing to act. We look forward to negotiations over the bill continuing and seeing President Biden sign it into law.”