Democrats’ Flagship Election Reform Bill Passes US House, Faces Grim Prospects in Senate
By Staff, Agencies
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a sweeping government and elections reform bill designed to update voting procedures, reported Reuters.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the H.R. 1 bill by 220-210 in a mostly partisan vote, in a move that had been anticipated, as most Republicans have been vocally opposed to the legislation.
Conservatives have criticized it as a partisan power-grab and a massive 'federal overreach' into election administration, which is primarily controlled by states and localities in the United States.
While overhauling government ethics and campaign finance laws, H.R. 1, known as the "For the People Act," includes provisions to expand early and absentee voting, to allow voters to register online on Election Day and to restore voting rights for felons. It will also see the task of redrawing congressional districts turned over by states to independent commissions.
The legislation was hailed as "designed to restore the voices of Americans who felt left out and locked out for too long" by its original sponsor, Representative John Sarbanes, as he spoke outside the Capitol ahead of the vote-casting.
While the Democrats have argued for the new legislation, claiming it would render the political system in the country more democratic and ‘responsive to voters’, Republicans have warned of powers being potentially stripped away from the states, while unleashing opportunities for potential fraud.
The bill is deemed unlikely to pass the Senate, where support from all 50 members of that party caucus, plus 10 Republicans would be required.
President Joe Biden had earlier stated he would sign the bill into law once it cleared both the House and the Senate.
"We're going to do everything in our power - I think Chuck Schumer's going to do everything in his power - to make sure that the agenda that we are working on and promised the people will in fact be the agenda we put forward and hopefully pass," said Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer.
The House also passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a 220-212 vote. The bill is named after a 46-year-old African American who died in May 2020 after being brutally apprehended for reportedly using counterfeit money in a shop, when a white police officer pressed on his neck with his knee for almost nine minutes.
Reintroduced by Democratic California Rep. Karen Bass with House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the legislation is intended to boost police accountability and scrap a plethora of police practices that have been in the crosshairs since last year.
The bill is also to prohibit profiling based on race and religion and require training on profiling; ban chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants; channel federal funds towards ensuring use of body cameras; set up a National Police Misconduct Registry; require stronger data reporting on police use of force, among other issues.