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Senate Democrats Take Up Act Which Would Expand Voting Rights

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, the Senate votes on a bill that Democrats consider their highest priority, and they are not going to succeed. The For the People Act is designed to set federal standards for voting. It has many other provisions, too. And Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the whole thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: They've made abundantly clear that the real driving force behind S 1 is a desire to rig the rules of American elections permanently - permanently in Democrats' favor.

INSKEEP: Now, to be clear, Democrats say they're responding to Republican efforts to rig the rules on the state level. But in any case, in a closely divided Senate, Republicans have the power to block the bill.

NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is on the line once again. Sue, good morning.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: So if this bill were to pass, what would it do?

DAVIS: It would enact pretty sweeping changes about every aspect of how we run our elections and how we vote. It would also change our campaign finance laws and ethics laws that affect all three branches of government. Some examples - it would do things like mandate voter registration and require states to allow for automatic and same-day registration for federal elections. It would require mail-in voting that was so popular in the 2020 elections, as well as early voting. It would also take away partisan ability to redraw congressional House district lines and make the states give that authority to independent commissions. It would mandate more disclosure for how money is spent in politics, and it would enact things like new ethics requirements for Supreme Court justices and require presidential candidates to disclose up to 10 years of their tax returns.

INSKEEP: A little dig at President - former President Trump there at the end. I can see why Republicans would object to some of this on practical grounds. They've never liked limitations on campaign finance. They're doing really well through redistricting at the moment. But is there a principled reason Republicans have advanced for opposition?

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, Missouri Republican senator Roy Blunt talked about this last week. They say they fundamentally believe the bill is built on a bad foundation. Republicans don't support having this much federal control over how states run their elections. Some of these provisions would probably meet a constitutional challenge and have to go through the courts. Also, a lot of Republicans, including McConnell, point to the fact that, you know, if you look at the 2020 election, despite what former President Trump has said about and questioned about the election, there was record turnout. The outcome was not in doubt. And they think that undermines this Democratic argument that there's some big, vast crisis out there that needs to be remedied.

INSKEEP: Is there a problem simply with the atmosphere here - because Republicans who are making these changes on the state level are doing so in response to a fiction about the 2020 election?

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, I think this is a moment where there's just not a lot of good faith between the two parties on this issue of voting reform because of that. Republicans say this is not necessary. But at the same time, you're seeing sweeping changes to state election laws happening across the country. And a lot of Republicans in Congress are still unwilling to sort of stand up to former President Trump and his false claims about the election. So I don't think that Democrats look at Republican protests in good faith. At the same time, Democrats wrote this bill in the Trump era without any Republican input, so it's not exactly like this was a bipartisan effort from the start.

INSKEEP: Sue, always appreciate your insights and reporting. Thanks so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: OK. That's NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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