H.R. 1, The Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill; What Would It Do If It Passes in the Senate?

Republicans are firmly opposed to the bill – as they were the first time Democrats attempted to pass it – with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling it nothing more than a blatant attempt at a power-grab.
Republicans are firmly opposed to the bill – as they were the first time Democrats attempted to pass it – with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling it nothing more than a blatant attempt at a power-grab. Photo credit ShutterStock.com, licensed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – HR1 – also known as “The For the People Act” – is a bill authored by Democrats in the House of Representatives to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.

HR1 was first introduced and passed in the House in 2019 but never got through the Senate, which at that time was under Republican control; then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the bill to be put to a vote on the Senate floor. However, Rep. John Sarbanes (D–MD) re-introduced the nearly 800-page HR1 – and its equivalent, S1, was also introduced in the Senate – in January 2021 during the 117th Congress.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the bill would “restore the people’s faith that government works for the public interest, the people’s interests, not the special interests.”

The bill passed in the Democrat-controlled House on March 3 on a vote of 220-210, but it is considered unlikely to pass in the Senate, where the margin for Democrat control is much slimmer; bills of this nature require a 60 vote majority in the Senate, and currently the chamber is split down the middle, 50-50; 10 Republicans would need to vote in favor of HR1 for it to pass, the prospect of which is considered by many to be a huge uphill battle at best.


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Republicans are firmly opposed to the bill – as they were the first time Democrats attempted to pass it – with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling it nothing more than a blatant attempt at a power-grab.

“It is not designed to protect Americans’ vote – it is designed to put a thumb on the scale in every election in America, so that Democrats can turn a temporary majority into permanent control,” he said.

Here is a breakdown of the major aspects of HR1, by category:

Voting rights

  • National automatic voter registration.
  • Requires states to put online options for voter registration.
  • Requires at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections, and prohibits states from restricting a person’s ability to vote by mail.
  • Establishes independent redistricting commissions to end partisan gerrymandering in federal elections.
  • Prohibits voter roll purging.
  • Restores voting rights of convicted felons who have served their sentence.

Campaign finance

  • Establishes public financing of campaigns, powered by small donations
  • Supports a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United.
  • Passes the DISCLOSE Act, which would require super PACs and political organizations to make their donors public.
  • Passes the Honest Ads Act, which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the sources and amounts of money for political ads.
  • Discloses government contractor political spending, targets shell companies pushing foreign money into elections.
  • Changes the Federal Election Commission to five commissioners instead of six to reduce tie votes.
  • Candidates and super PACs are prohibited from coordinating.

Ethics

  • President and Vice President – and candidates for those offices – must disclose 10 years of their tax returns.
  • Congress members cannot use taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment or discrimination cases.
  • Office of Government Ethics has increased oversight and enforcement.
  • Ensures that all branches of government are affected by the new law.
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