Amid the GOP's nationwide voter suppression onslaught that threatens to restrict ballot access for tens of millions of Americans, Senate Democrats' introduction of the For the People Act on Wednesday was welcomed by progressives who also emphasized that passing the comprehensive plan to strengthen the country's democracy through the Senate will require the upper chamber's majority to scrap the anti-democratic 60-vote filibuster.
"With Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and with support from a vast majority of the American people, it's time for Senate Democrats to go big on democracy reform."
—Ryan Thomas, Repair Our Democracy
"While GOP lawmakers across the country propose legislation that would strip millions of Americans of their right to vote, Senate Democrats have introduced sweeping legislation that would protect voting rights, reduce the impact of big money in our elections, and add tens of millions of eligible Americans to the voter rolls," Stand Up America president Sean Eldridge said in a statement.
Though he applauded "the congressional Democrats who have championed the For the People Act in both chambers," Eldridge added that "too much is at stake to delay a vote on this critical legislation or to allow archaic Senate rules to kill the bill."
"The only path forward now for Democrats to stop Republicans from suppressing the vote is to swiftly end the filibuster and pass the For the People Act now," Eldridge said Wednesday, echoing what he and other voting rights advocates said earlier this month when the Democratic-controlled House passed its version of the bill, H.R. 1, without the support of a single Republican.
If the filibuster is allowed to stand, passing S. 1, the Senate's version of the For the People Act, would depend on 10 Republican senators joining every member of the Democratic caucus in supporting one of the majority party's top legislative priorities—a highly unlikely event even though the transformative package of pro-democracy reforms is popular among voters across the political spectrum.
During a press conference held to introduce the For the People Act, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that "everything is on the table" to pass the landmark bill.
"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."
Schumer's comments came on the heels of critical remarks about the filibuster made earlier this week by other powerful Democrats.
On Monday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) denounced the filibuster as a "weapon of mass obstruction." The following day, President Joe Biden for the first time endorsed overhauling the 60-vote rule by requiring senators who wish to block bills to speak continuously on the floor. They joined a growing list of Democrats demanding the abolition of—or, at the very least, significant reforms to—the anti-democratic tool enabling the Republican minority to obstruct the enactment of popular legislation.
Given the GOP's ongoing assault on the franchise—which has gained intensity in the wake of former President Donald Trump's proliferation of lies about voter fraud during his failed attempt to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election that saw a historic turnout—voting rights advocates say the stakes couldn't be higher.
"No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy."
—Sen. Raphael Warnock
Last week, legislation intended to make voting more difficult—particularly for communities of color and other Democratic-leaning constituencies—was advanced in Georgia by the GOP-controlled state Senate, while Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that curbs early voting.
As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that by passing the For the People Act, Congress can "thwart virtually every single one" of the more than 250 voter suppression bills that have been introduced, and in a few cases passed, by Republican lawmakers in 43 states.
As Folabi Olagbaju, campaign director at Greenpeace USA, pointed out Wednesday, "the voting reforms in the For the People Act would stop virtually every voting restriction introduced in state legislatures this year in its tracks."
Repair Our Democracy spokesperson Ryan Thomas said Wednesday that "with Democratic control of the White House and Congress, and with support from a vast majority of the American people, it's time for Senate Democrats to go big on democracy reform."
"The Senate must move expeditiously to pass this sweeping legislation in its entirety—without delay, without breaking it up, and without the filibuster," he added.
In his first-ever Senate floor speech, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said Wednesday that the issue of voting rights "is bigger than the filibuster."
"No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy," he added.