Senate Democrats make democracy reform first bill of new majority

Senate Democrats are making a sweeping democracy reform package the first bill they plan to introduce after taking back the majority.

Incoming Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and incoming Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on Tuesday that the first bill Senate Democrats will offer will be the For The People Act, which passed the House during the previous Congress but stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate. 

“Senate Democrats are committed to advancing real solutions and fighting to uphold the core tenets of our constitution, which is why we are announcing today that the first bill of the new Congress will be the For the People Act,” Schumer said in a statement. 

The bill, which is endorsed by a wide swath of progressive and civil rights groups, includes, among other things, changes to voter registration requirements, more funding for election security, requirements for presidents and vice presidents to disclose their tax returns and new ethics rules for members of Congress.

The bill would also require a code of ethics for the Supreme Court, boost public funding for presidential elections and require new disclosures for online advertising.

The decision to make the bill the first offered by the incoming Senate Democratic majority comes after House Democrats made the bill “H.R. 1,” underscoring its status as a top legislative priority. 

Klobuchar said as incoming chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee a “number one priority will be to make voting easier and more secure and to halt the flood of special interest and dark money that is drowning out the voices of the American people.”

But the bill faces little chance in passing the Senate even after Democrats take over the majority. Most legislation will still require 60 votes to pass and Democrats will only have 50 votes plus incoming Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie. 

Democrats could nuke the 60-vote legislative filibuster, which would allow them to pass legislation with only 50 votes. But several members of the caucus are wary of taking such a step.

“It’s too soon to say how we’ll pursue this. I think that every American has received a message that the integrity of our elections is incredibly important and so in terms of accountability for the events of this past year there’s probably nothing more important than passing the For the People Act,” Merkley said when asked if the caucus would take action on the filibuster if Republicans block the bill.