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The For the People Act Must Pass In Whole

"There is nothing to indicate that taking out key democracy reforms from the bill will improve the chances of passing S. 1."

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)

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)

Some academics and pundits have been postulating that the campaign finance, gerrymandering, and other reform provisions of S. 1, the For the People Act, should be dropped, and the Senate should proceed to try to pass only the voting rights provisions of the bill.

"There is absolutely no reason for supporters of S. 1 to negotiate with ourselves and dramatically narrow the reforms in the bill. All this will do is play into the hands of reform opponents who then wouldn’t have to lift a finger to get rid of most of the major democracy reforms in S. 1 they oppose."

This approach makes zero strategic sense.

There is nothing to indicate that taking out key democracy reforms from the bill will improve the chances of passing S. 1.

There is a powerful case, however, for why this should not be done.

H.R. 1, the House version of S. 1, has passed the House twice—in 2019 and in March 2021—with all Democrats but one in 2021 supporting the bill. The Senate bill had 50 cosponsors in the last Congress and has 49 cosponsors in this Congress. The campaign finance reforms in the bill have broad public support, as does the whole Act—83% of voters support the For the People Act.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who cosponsored the bill in 2019, is the only Democratic senator not cosponsoring the bill this year. But, in a recent statement on S. 1, he made clear he wants to end the money chase in Congress and that he supports campaign finance reforms in the bill. He stated:

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Now, more and more lawmakers spend their time dialing for dollars, instead of legislating for their constituents. This never-ending battle to raise money to spend on reelection campaigns cheapens our elections to nothing more than financial transactions. That is why I have and will continually support changing our campaign finance rules.

Senate Republicans clearly want to kill S. 1 in its entirety, not revise it. They particularly want to kill the voting provisions, in order to protect the outrageous voter suppression efforts being pursued by Republicans in state legislatures around the country.

A narrow version of S. 1 limited to voting rights is not going to get one Republican vote, let alone 10, to break a filibuster. And given Senator Manchin's support for "changing our campaign finance rules," it is illogical and makes no sense to think that dropping the campaign finance reforms in S. 1 is the key to getting his support for S. 1 .

There is absolutely no reason for supporters of S. 1 to negotiate with ourselves and dramatically narrow the reforms in the bill. All this will do is play into the hands of reform opponents who then wouldn’t have to lift a finger to get rid of most of the major democracy reforms in S. 1 they oppose.

Dropping major provisions of the bill will also weaken support for the bill from representatives and senators who believe this is the moment when we must protect the sacred right to vote, repair our corrupt campaign finance system, and prevent partisan gerrymandering.

Fred Wertheimer

Fred Wertheimer

Fred Wertheimer is the founder and president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote government accountability and integrity.

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