Where are the voting rights bills?

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WASHINGTON DC – The Congressional Black Caucus helped pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last week. President Biden called it a victory, as did the New York Times.

Six members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) voted against the infrastructure bill because the popular Build Back Better Bill was not put to a vote at the same time.

The deal Biden brokered with the Tory Democrats and the CPC allowed a vote on the infrastructure bill with the promise of five Tory Democrats that they would vote ‘yes’ on the Build Back Better bill (BBB ) No later than the week of November 15, pending a financial report from the Congressional Budget Office.

Former Ohio Senator Nina Turner called the Tory Democrats’ promise “madness” and said if they pledge to vote for BBB “by November 15, they can do it now. “.

The BBB has a lot in it that the majority of American backers: childcare, paid vacation, health care, climate action, housing, education, and a roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers. The infrastructure bill passed easily because some Republicans supported it. It is a pro-business bill.

Conservatives may be reluctant to vote for the BBB by November 19 because the CBO may not submit its report by then.

At least 20 Progressive Democrats don’t trust them to keep their word and say it’s a red herring anyway, as none of those conservatives voted against the infrastructure bill and the CBO has said that ‘it is expected to increase the deficit by $ 250 billion.

Spending and revenue analyzes conducted by the US Treasury Department, the White House, and the Joint Committee on Taxation have all found that the BBB is either neutral or can effectively reduce the deficit.

If the BBB comes to the House on Thanksgiving and survives further cuts – the original BBB was $ 3.5 trillion and has already been cut to $ 1.75 trillion – it has yet to pass the Senate. Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are two Democrats in name only (DINOS) who could block his passage.

As all this maneuvering and drama unfolds in Washington, when or if John Lewis’s Advancement of Voting Rights Act or the People’s Act (HR 1) is passed in Congress worries voting rights activists Across the country. These two bills were not included in the deal reached last week.

“Democracy is in danger. There are too many in this country who do not recognize the urgency of the moment, ”said Wade Henderson. He is CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the oldest civil rights coalition in the United States.

Henderson told ethnic media reporters he was “deeply disappointed” that the Senate failed to push forward the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act last week. He noted that between January and September of this year, 19 states enacted 33 new laws that restrict the freedom to vote.

He said the leaders’ conference released 13 state reports that document “a chapter and a verse of pervasive and pernicious racial discrimination in the vote.”

“The evidence could not be clearer that Senate action is needed to restore voting rights law,” Henderson said.

Voting rights enjoyed bipartisan support. Republicans backed the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act with a 98-0 vote. Thirteen current Republican senators have voted for reauthorization as members of Congress.

“Their reluctance to support the legislation today shows how hyper-partisanship has overtaken long-standing bipartisan support for voting rights when we need it more than ever,” said Henderson.

On Indian reserves, there are structural barriers to voting. People don’t have a mailing address and if you want to vote you have to drive for hours on bumpy dirt roads to vote off the reserve. Since many Native Americans are poor, they don’t have good transportation, many Indians just don’t care.

“The simple fact is that we need federal protection in the Indian country,” said Jacqueline De Leon, Lawyer, Native American Rights Fund. She said two lawsuits in Montana that forced the reservation vote had an immediate impact.

“The participation rate has gone from an appalling 30% to 70%. The natives vote if they have a fair chance, but too often they are not given that chance, ”she said.

Jacqueline De León is a member of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. She is a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund.

Indian activists in Alaska lobbied Senator Lisa Murkowski, and through their efforts, Murskowski voted to have the Voting Rights Act brought to the Senate for debate.

A political science professor at Indiana University was flabbergasted that Democrats failed to tie the BBB to voting rights legislation.

Jeffrey Isaac works in an ivory tower and doesn’t expect anyone in Washington to read his blog, but maybe he should. He has a very compelling solution to the stalemate between Biden and the Republicans.

“It’s simple. Why can’t Progressive Democrats come to an agreement with the leadership of Congress and the White House, and then announce a bespoke proposal for Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema:

Jeffrey C. Isaac is James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington.

They will agree to support the heavily discounted $ 1.75 Build Back Better plan, and vote to pass the “bipartisan” infrastructure bill immediately, in exchange for immediate passage of the designed freedom to vote law. by none other than Joe Manchin.

Manchin doesn’t like ambitious social programs? Okay for now.

Manchin doesn’t think family leave is appropriate for reconciliation? Okay for now.

Manchin says he cares about voting rights and believes in the Freedom to Vote Act?

Fine. As he agrees to override the obscure rule of Senate obstruction, now, for this urgent legislation, in the name of constitutional democracy and the advancement of social legislation.

Manchin can have his “physical infrastructure” bill now, and progressives can now have meaningful election and election legislation. And the details of the “Build Back Better” bill can be worked out in the days and weeks to come.

The Freedom to Vote Act is a fairly straightforward law. If Democrats are serious, they can pass it in both chambers in a matter of days, then pass the infrastructure bill at the same time, with the understanding that “build back better” will follow shortly thereafter. “

This is not what happened in Washington last week but you never know. Maybe someone there will pay attention to ideas other than their own.

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