Can voting rights be passed with a GOP Congress?

Voting Rights

By Cash Michaels

January 22, 2023 1:55AM
Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

Even with a Republican majority in the U.S. House for the new 118th Congress, Pres. Biden could still sign new voting rights protection into law this year, a NC congressperson assures. Just one thing must happen first.

In the Democrat-led 117th Congress, Democrats in the House passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) and the For the People Act (H.R. 1).

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, when enacted into law, would restore the full power of the original 1965 Voting Rights Act after it was weakened by two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It would also protect against racial voter discrimination; re-establish pre-clearance procedures for the U.S. Dept. of Justice so that no state can pass and implement new election laws and procedures without federal review and approval; protect access to voting for all voters regardless of race, creed, or color; and restore the right of all voters to challenge discriminatory voting laws.

The For the People Act, when enacted into law, would expand voter registration by allowing automatic, same-day and online registration; would restrict the U.S. Postal Service from implementing any operational changes at least 120 days prior to an Election Day; reduce long lines for voters by allowing no-excuse vote-by-mail and early voting; restore full voting rights for former felons; limit purging voters from voter rolls and prohibit election misinformation.

Both of those voting rights measures were passed by the House, but hit a brick wall in the Democrat-led U.S Senate because at least one senator in the 50-50 body refused to remove the Senate filibuster rule which would have allowed passage by all of its Democratic senators.

Thus, both voting rights measures - H.R.! and H.R. 4 - failed in the Senate.

As a compromise, the Senate introduced the Freedom to Vote Act last September, but that too failed because Democrats could not overcome the filibuster rules. If that had passed both the Senate and House last year, the law would have done most of the things H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 were designed to do, plus outlaw partisan gerrymandering and make Election Day a public holiday.

So now, with a conservative leaning Republican House in power, how can the voting rights measures that failed in the U.S. Senate last year become law now? First, Democrats have enough of a majority to override any vote to uphold the filibuster.

According to NC Rep. Alma Adams, if the Democrat-led Senate passes either H.R. 1 or H.R. 4, or both, without changing a word, or adding anything to what the House passed in 2022, those laws can go straight to Pres. Biden for his signature.

“If it’s not changed, that’s it,” the Charlotte - Mecklenburg U.S. House representative told this reporter. “If it’s not modified in anyway, then it’s a wrap.”

However, if the Senate changes or adds anything, it is required to send the new versions back to the now Republican House, which, likely, would kill both measures, rather than concur with the bills.

On Monday during an interview on CNN, Martin Luther King III held out faith that voting rights could be achieved soon.

“It’s going to be quite difficult for any of that to happen with this Republican-led Congress, but we have to keep exerting pressure on them,” King III said. “Nothing happened in the modern civil rights movement until it happened.”

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