As White House Backs For the People Act, New Calls to Get Rid of Filibuster

A participant holding a sign at a march celebrating the defeat of President Donald Trump in Manhattan on November 7, 2020. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As White House Backs For the People Act, New Calls to Get Rid of Filibuster

"The For the People Act could be the last best chance to fix our broken democracy," Common Cause told lawmakers.

The White House on Monday released a statement in support of HR1--a legislative package of democracy reforms--prompting fresh scrutiny over the filibuster and the power it gives Republicans to kneecap the proposal.

H. R. 1, the For the People Act, was reintroduced in January after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked its advancement in the Senate when it was first introduced in 2019.

Supported by all the Democrats in the House and widely backed by the public across party lines, H.R. 1 has provisions to increase access to the polls--including automatic voter registration--curb partisan gerrymandering, and take on the power of so-called "dark money."

The proposal is set to face a vote in the House this week.

In the Monday statement of administration policy, the White House put H. R. 1 in the context of former President Donald Trump and other Republicans' false claims of voter fraud and the GOP's latrest slew of state-level voter suppression efforts.

"In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never-before-seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen American democracy," the White House said.

The statement came the same day advocacy group Common Cause called on all members of the House to vote in favor of H. R. 1. "The For the People Act could be the last best chance to fix our broken democracy," the group wrote (pdf) to lawmakers.

Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, also issued a statement on Monday urging H.R. 1's passage.

"Voters want and expect a democracy that's open to the American people, and this landmark bill will make our government more accessible, transparent, and responsive to citizens. At this critical moment for our democracy, the House and Senate should act now to pass the For the People Act, which has broad, bipartisan support from a clear majority of American voters," said Potter.

Not everyone's on board. As The Associated Pressreported Monday, Republicans view the H.R. 1's vote-boosting provisions "as threats that would both limit the power of states to conduct elections and ultimately benefit Democrats, notably with higher turnout among minority voters."

Democrats' narrow 50-50 control of Senate has put the filibuster--a legislative a tactic with a racist past--under fresh scrutiny this session, with progressive lawmakers and groups calling for its end.

As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote Sunday:

Mitch McConnell may no longer be Senate majority leader, but Republicans can still block legislation supported by the vast majority. That's because of a Senate rule called the filibuster. If we have any hope of safeguarding our democracy and ushering in transformative change, Democrats must wield their power to get rid of the filibuster--and fast.

The filibuster is a Senate rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to pass legislation. Which means a minority of senators can often block legislation that the vast majority of Americans want and need.

"The easy part" was the White House issuing the statement Monday, tweetedNBC News reporter Sahil Kapur. "The hard question for Biden will be what to do when this gets filibustered in the Senate."

IfNotNow co-founder Max Berger also weighed in on the White House statement, saying, "Failure to get rid of the filibuster will spell doom for H. R. 1, the rest of [President Joe] Biden's agenda, and Democrats chances in 2022."

Trump, meanwhile, was among those at the rightwing CPAC conference over the weekend criticizing the pro-democracy legislation.

He said Sunday that H. R. 1 is a "disaster" and a "monster" that "must be stopped."

Christina Harvey, managing director of the progressive group Stand Up America, said in a statement Monday that it "should come as no surprise that Donald Trump would lie about a law that would make voting more accessible for millions of Americans, combat the corruption that ran rampant during his administration, and reduce the impact of white, wealthy, and well-connected men like him in our politics."

"Members of Congress should ignore these blatant falsehoods," she said, "and vote this week to send the For the People Act to the Senate."

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