May 7, 2021

By Meara Geraty
Digital Content Coordinator, RepresentUs

The most important anti-corruption legislation in a generation — the For the People Act — will be taken up by the Senate Rules Committee for markup on May 11th. This is an important procedural step, but it’s also an opportunity for politicians to gut important reforms from the Act.

Here’s what you need to know:

What’s next for the For the People Act? How Committees Markup a Bill

The For the People Act is a groundbreaking bill that would stop billionaires from buying our elections, end gerrymandering, and put power back in the hands of the people (which is why it’s no surprise that some politicians are terrified of it passing).

On May 11th, the bill will go into markup, where the Senate Rules Committee will debate amendments and possibly rewrite the legislation. This is a key formal step all bills go through before they can be transferred to the Senate floor for a vote.

This process allows lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to discuss their support or opposition to particular reforms, propose changes, and ultimately craft a bill they hope will make it through a full vote. 

Like all markups, this will be open to the public; watch a live broadcast of the process on May 11th here.

Markup: What to expect with the For the People Act

Since the For the People Act of 2021 was introduced in the beginning of the year, it’s inspired a lot of commentary. When it heads to markup, we can expect a flurry of activity from committee members jockeying to tweak, gut, add, or remove portions of the bill (in fact, it’s not unheard of for the text of a bill to be completely replaced.)

With the spotlight on this bill, we’re likely to see hundreds of amendments proposed from both sides of the aisle. And like a lot of things in Washington, this will be more about optics than policy.

We’ll see opponents of the bill offer amendments, say, that would bar undocumented immigrants from voting. But it’s a trick — undocumented individuals already can’t vote, and the For the People Act doesn’t change that.

This kind of thing is a disinformation tactic to make the public think the bill would do something bad if passed as is. We’re also likely to see supporters of the bill offer largely ineffectual or meaningless amendments that, similar to opponents, are meant more to message to their constituents than to change policy.

On the other side, supporters will offer amendments intended to make the law easier to implement, like a suggestion to remove the requirement that voters have access to fifteen 10-hour days of early voting for areas with very small populations, or proposals to ensure states have the resources to implement the bill’s transformational reforms.

Because the Senate is evenly divided between parties, the Rules Committee is as well. So the most likely outcome is that we see a flurry of activity, and then an impasse as the bill can’t get a majority vote to move out of committee. In that case, the Senate Majority Leader can take a series of procedural steps to bring it to the floor.

The good, the bad, and the action you can take to help.

Whatever happens, moving the bill through markup is a sign of progress. Lively, bipartisan debate is the calling card of the Senate, and this procedure is an opportunity for members of both parties to discuss the details of this important bill in good faith.

Of course, some politicians don’t know the meaning of “good faith,” so we should also expect to see grandstanding against the bill, more of the opposition’s wild claims, and shady tactics to gut the Act. Bad actors will surely try to take this as an opportunity to weaken vital sections of the bill — or even kill it entirely.

But don’t be fooled: Those who argue against this anti-corruption bill — regardless of what half-baked, baseless reasoning they give — are simply defending the corrupt status quo because it benefits them. Almost 70% of all Americans support the bill, and passing it is vital to solving our biggest problems, from healthcare to taxes to the economy.

If we show the Senate Rules Committee that Americans across the political spectrum are watching them and want the For the People Act passed with all its critical reforms intact, they’ll think twice about gutting massively popular proposals.

Take action now: Urge your Senator not to weaken the bill in the Rules Committee.

RepresentUs is America’s leading anti-corruption organization working city-by-city, state-by-state to fix our broken political system.