Activists are pressing for Democrats to try again to bring up an elections overhaul bill, anticipating that Republicans would block it and intensify pressure to eliminate the filibuster.,
Biden to meet with top Democrats on voting rights as senators ready scaled-back proposal.
Senator Amy Klobuchar criticized Georgia’s new voting law this month, in Washington.Credit…Matthew Odom for The New York Times
President Biden and the top Democrats in Congress are expected to meet at the White House on Friday to discuss their party’s faltering efforts to pass major voting rights legislation, according to two congressional aides familiar with the plans.
Mr. Biden’s meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York comes at a crucial moment, as activists are pushing the president to use his power and Democrats’ control of Congress to protect voting rights while they have the chance. Republican-led states have enacted at least 30 new laws containing a host of new restrictions on voting, and G.O.P. senators have blocked consideration of a Democratic bill that would impose sweeping new federal mandates aimed at overriding them.
Party leaders do not have many options to break through the gridlock. In June, Republicans successfully stalled Democrats’ marquee elections legislation, called the For the People Act, by filibustering it. Democrats’ hopes of changing Senate filibuster rules to bypass Republicans have flagged as a few holdouts within the party continue to oppose such a move. And their window for legislative action is narrow.
A spokesman for the White House declined to comment on the meeting. The two congressional aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans, cautioned that the timing of the meeting was still being finalized.
Democrats are close to finalizing a scaled back bill that activists hope could be a battering ram in the fight over the filibuster. The party is also readying legislation to reinforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and lawmakers have discussed tucking voting provisions into the $3.5 trillion budget plan advancing in the Senate, which they can push through unilaterally over the opposition of Republicans. But the G.O.P. is largely opposed to all three.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, confirmed on Thursday that a small group of Democratic senators had been meeting to hash out a revised bill that could be released in the coming days. Among them is Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate who balked at some of the more expansive proposals in the For the People Act and has been a determined holdout on keeping the filibuster intact.
“This isn’t one of these ‘Oh, maybe we’ll get it done,'” Ms. Klobuchar said on Thursday during a call hosted by SiX Action, a progressive group, saying the emerging measure would have provisions on gerrymandering, voting by mail and automatic voter registration. “We are very close to getting an agreement on that bill.”
There is no indication that an accord among a small group of Democrats would draw any more Republican backing than previous proposals have. But activists and progressives want to see the revised measure come up for a vote before the Senate leaves Washington for its August recess, anticipating that it would fail and intensify pressure to dismantle the filibuster.
Mr. Schumer has yet to commit to a timeline, and it is unclear if he would want a full-fledged filibuster fight playing out just as he and Mr. Biden are trying to maneuver a bipartisan infrastructure bill through the Senate.
The revised elections legislation is built around a rough framework provided by Mr. Manchin earlier this year. It is expected to mandate that states provide 15 days of early, in-person voting, including at least two Sundays; a national expansion of mail-in voting; an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts; a national voter identification requirement; and campaign finance provisions that would require super PACs to disclose the identities of their big donors.
The bill’s authors also plan to include language intended to undercut state laws in places like Georgia that they believe would allow Republican elected officials to subvert the results of an election to favor their candidates. Federal lawmakers specifically want to make it harder for their state counterparts to remove local election officials and harder for partisan poll watchers to intimidate voters and election workers. They also want to make the process of challenging any individual’s ability to register to vote more difficult.