KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Democratic Senators who hoped to begin debate on a bill to standardize election laws were thwarted Tuesday when a 50-50 party-line vote blocked discussion on what Kansas City-area Republicans called a "power grab."
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) introduced S.1, the For the People Act, in March. It would expand voter registration and voting access, while limiting removal of voters from voter rolls. The bill also would mandate that states create “independence redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting,” according to the bill’s summary text.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said in a statement that Democrats “forced a vote” on the measure, which he called a “laundry list of bad public policies” that would, among other issues, undermine voter ID laws, fund political campaigns with taxpayer dollars and reform the bi-partisan Federal Elections Commission into a partisan panel.
“In November, Americans voted for a Congress that is nearly a 50-50 split between the parties in the House, and precisely 50-50 in the Senate,” Moran said. “If elections have consequences, then the consequence American voters had in mind was to require Congress to put aside partisan differences and work together to do its job on their behalf. The U.S. Senate upheld that mandate from the American people today by rejecting this partisan power grab.”
S.1 also would establish election security protocols, including helping states secure election systems and “developing a national security strategy to protect U.S. democratic institutions,” the summary stated.
But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) said during a press conference that the bill is “built on a foundation that people think is faulty.” The diversity of the country’s voting system, according to Blunt, is one of its strengths.
“[It’s] hard to subvert American democracy when there are different systems in every state. Every state has developed an election process that works for them,” Blunt said. “This bill is not about more democracy. It's about more Democrats. And the federal government doesn't need to pass a bill that, for 20 years, has been the goal of Democrats in Washington.”
Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) said she was disappointed in Senate Republicans for not allowing debate to begin. The policies, according to Davids, would modernize elections, root out corruption and protect the freedom to vote.
“The sentiment I am hearing from folks back home in Kansas is one of urgency, frustration, and, at times, fear,” Davids said in a statement. “People are tired of feeling like billionaires get more of a say than they do in our elections, tired of feeling that Washington isn’t working for them, and tired of partisan gerrymandering threatening to erase their vote. Their voices are clear: we can’t keep putting this off.”
But Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) said in a statement that S.1 would have “decreased the value” of the opportunity to vote.
“From the beginning, the Nancy Pelosi Power Grab Act was destined for failure,” he said, “and I applaud my colleagues who stood firm and prevented this legislation from wreaking havoc on U.S. elections.”
Additional components of the bill focus on campaign finance issue and requiring the president, vice president and some candidates for both offices to disclose a decade’s worth of tax returns.