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Legislators Descend on DC to Pressure Senate to Pass Voting Rights Bill

August 2, 2021 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — Legislators from across the country began arriving in Washington, D.C., on Monday in a bid to pressure the U.S. Senate to pass sweeping voting rights legislation known as the For The People Act.

The House passed the bill in March by a 220-210 vote in which one Democrat joined all Republicans in the chamber in voting against new federal guidelines for campaign finance, voting access and ethics laws.

But Senate Republicans shot down the bill as soon as it arrived in their chamber.

The state lawmakers headed for the nation’s capital insist the For the People Act must be passed and signed into law before the end of summer in order to go into effect before the 2022 midterms, and to prevent the drawing of hyper-partisan maps that threaten to disenfranchise voters, especially voters of color, for the next decade.

Earlier this summer, more than 50 Texas Democrats flew to Washington in an effort to block restrictive voting legislation from being passed by their legislature by breaking quorum. The Texas House cannot legally do state business without a quorum present. 

They killed an earlier version of the Texas voting bill in May, when they broke quorum in the final moments of the regular session.

But in June, they wed their objective with those of House Democrats here, flying to Washington to press their own case in D.C. for the For The People Act.

With the Texas Legislature now entering the final week of its special session, lawmakers from at least 20 other states are joining Lone Star Democrats for a “week of action” aimed at convincing senators to forgo their August recess until the voting reforms are passed.

Organizers of the events said the state lawmakers will hold a series of events and meetings with federal lawmakers beginning Tuesday at noon and continuing throughout the week “to underscore the urgent need to pass legislation protecting the right to vote before the end of summer and undo anti-voter laws in time for the 2022 midterm elections.” 

The main event, called “Recess Can Wait,” will be a rally on Capitol Hill planned by the Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition of activist groups.

The rally is scheduled to be held from noon to 2 p.m. on the U.S. Capitol Lawn just north of Constitution Ave NW and west of New Jersey Ave NW, near the Robert Taft Memorial.

“President Biden and Majority Leader [Charles] Schumer know that time to pass the For the People Act is quickly diminishing,” said Jana Morgan, director of the Declaration for American Democracy. “It is critical that this legislation is enacted before the 2022 midterm elections and before partisan maps that would disenfranchise voters for the next decade, especially voters of color, are drawn.

“We call on Sen. Schumer to delay Senate recess until the bill is sent to the president’s desk. We also call on President Biden to use the full power of the Oval Office to ensure that the For the People Act is signed into law before the end of summer and to not let the Jim Crow filibuster stand in the way,” she said.

“One of the major tenets of a fully functioning democracy is that the public interest, not special interests, guide decision-making. More than 80% of Americans across party lines support the For the People Act, and it is time for the Senate and the Biden administration to rise to the occasion and respond to the will of the people: Recess can wait; our democracy can’t,” Morgan added.

Eighteen states have enacted 30 new laws that make it harder to vote, according to a tally by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice that tracks state activity through July 14.

Many of the lawmakers will be coming in from states where Republican-controlled legislatures have already passed restrictive election legislation into law this year, like Georgia, Arizona and Florida.

The Texas special session ends Friday. However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to immediately call another session when this one ends. Republicans have dismissed the Democrat’s avoidance strategy as a “political stunt,” and publicly called on them to return and “do their jobs” in Austin.

That stance garnered Texas Republicans in the statehouse a rebuke from none other than Willie Nelson on Saturday.

The country music legend led more than a thousand spectators in singing “vote them out” Saturday afternoon from the steps of the Texas Capitol during a rally wrapping up a four-day march in support of Democratic state legislators who bolted for Washington.

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