|By Meara Geraty
Digital Content Coordinator, RepresentUs
As expected, the For the People Act was filibustered in the U.S. Senate this past Tuesday, preventing the bill from getting a vote — but that’s far from the end of this fight.
Here’s why the For the People Act isn’t dead and how we’re going to get it passed.
1. The bill is a top priority for powerful politicians, and neither side is giving up yet.
“Failure is not an option” — Majority Leader Schumer
Democrats currently control the House, Senate, and Presidency, and they’re determined to pass this bill.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and President Joe Biden are doubling down – both on the bill’s prospects, and the urgent, existential need to pass it. Congressional leadership and President Biden see this as a can’t-fail priority. They will use everything in their power to pass it — and right now, they have a lot of power.
What’s more, even opponents to the bill aren’t declaring victory. Opposing Senators are still worried Manchin will end up supporting the Act.
2. Senator Manchin is already buckling under the pressure to pass the bill.
Earlier in June, Senator Manchin released an op-ed claiming he wouldn’t vote for the bill, nor would he remove or amend the filibuster — another crucial step to being able to pass this bill through such a divided Congress. His article roiled the political news cycle, with many claiming it was the end of the road for the Act.
But the public backlash was so swift, Manchin walked it back soon after. His office recently circulated a memo outlining the provisions he wants to keep or add to the bill, and the Senator is continuing to engage with civil rights groups and Republicans to find common ground. Not only is he willing to continue discussion of the bill, but it’s clear that he sees a real path towards supporting and passing the Act.
Plus, despite what he says publicly about the filibuster, leaked audio of a closed-door call between Manchin and donors revealed that he’s open to a number of reforms to the filibuster that would enable legislation like the For the People Act to pass.
This is exactly why calling your Senators is so important. Manchin came around only after hearing from thousands of constituents on this important matter. You can make a huge impact just by taking two minutes to call your senator.
In Manchin’s own words: “Inaction is not an option.”
3. No bill is dead before the deadline, and the Act still has time.
Congress — like almost everyone else in the world — leaves things to the last minute.
In 2009, debates about the Affordable Care Act pushed a vote late into Christmas Eve before the bill passed. In 2011, debt ceiling negotiations threatened to drag on past the deadline, which would’ve wreaked havoc on the global economy — but the legislation passed with mere hours to spare. The same thing has happened with tax cuts, defense legislation, and more in recent years.
One of the For the People Act‘s most important features is an end to partisan gerrymandering, but if we don’t pass the Act before states redraw district lines this year, we’ll be stuck with rigged maps for the next decade.
For that reason, many politicians see mid-August as the deadline on this bill, as that’s when the census data needed for redistricting is expected to be delivered to states. As we get closer to that deadline, the pressure is going to ratchet up on the Senate, and as history shows us, seemingly-impossible deals can suddenly appear at the last minute.
Action on critical legislation often comes at the last possible moment, and we can expect the same with the For the People Act. No legislative fight is over until it's over.
4. The bill is still incredibly popular with the American people.
Americans feel like we can’t agree on anything, but a whopping two thirds of US voters support the For the People Act.
Congressmembers know this. The same voters they’ll need on their side come the next election are urging them to pass the Act now. We’ve already seen that public pressure can turn Manchin from a “no” to a “maybe” — so call your senator now, thank those who voted yes, and keep the pressure up!
5. This is exactly what the movement has been preparing for, and we’re ready to meet the moment.
This week's procedural vote to simply consider the For the People Act was expected to be filibustered, and this refusal to even discuss the bill actually helps make our case.
For any hold-out senators, there is only one choice to make: Allow obstructionist senators to destroy our republic, or protect American democracy on behalf of the hundreds of millions of Americans across the political spectrum who support this vital reform.
Senator Manchin’s goal of a bipartisan bill is laudable. Ending corruption is something Americans of all political stripes agree on, and Republicans and Democrats should be able to work together to meet the needs of their constituents.
But politics has become extremely polarized, so of course it doesn’t work that way. It’s been clear since the start that there will not be 60 Senators willing to listen to the American people and act in their best interest, so we’ve always known that this bill — and many others — would lead to a filibuster showdown.
Since the Democrats can’t get any of their priorities through with the filibuster as we know it intact, they’ll be doing everything they can to find ways to get important legislation around the filibuster. Reforms to the filibuster would only need 50 votes to pass, and Joe Manchin would be the 50th vote.
By filibustering a bill that two thirds of Americans support, opponents to this Act only proved to Senator Manchin that his bipartisan ambitions simply will not come to fruition. By failing to even move the bill to a debate, opponents proved to Manchin that waiting for Republican senators to come around on this bill is a fool’s errand.
So what’s next for the For the People Act?
To win this fight, we need to convince the Senate to support this Act and to prioritize saving our democracy over arcane Senate rules. The filibuster is not more important than our right to self-govern.
On Thursday, June 24, RepresentUs expert Damon Effingham, Director of Federal Reform, held a strategy call to explain what happened, how we can still win, and how you can help make it happen. Catch the recording here, and then jump into the action by thanking senators who supported the Act and urge them to keep fighting.