Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on Wednesday introduced the Senate version of the campaign finance, voting rights and ethics reform bill that House Democrats made their top priority.
With all 47 Senate Democrats signed on as co-sponsors, Udall’s bill marks a newfound unanimity in the party in favor of establishing publicly financed congressional elections and dramatically expanding voting rights.
“Every single member of the Senate Democratic caucus is an original cosponsor of our For The People Act — which means that every single congressional Democrat, in the House and Senate, supports this landmark package of reforms,” Udall said in a statement. “That is historic, and as Mitch McConnell vows to do the bidding of the special interests and obstruct these badly-needed reforms, the contrast that we are laying out for the American people could not be clearer.”
The bill is a near identical copy of the For The People Act (H.R. 1) passed by the House by a partisan vote split of 234-193 on March 8. It includes sweeping voting rights reforms that would re-enfranchise ex-felons, ban common voter suppression tactics and reduce barriers to voting across the country; campaign finance reforms that would create a system of publicly funded elections for congressional campaigns for the first time; and ethics reforms for the executive branch and Supreme Court.
Despite, or because of, universal backing from Democrats, Udall’s bill is unlikely to move through the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared the House version of the For The People Act as a “power grab” designed to help elect Democrats. He refuses to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. McConnell has long been the nation’s biggest opponent of campaign finance reforms from publicly financed elections to contribution limits to disclosure regulations.
Democrats still believe it is necessary to push for a vote on their sweeping reform bill. They see it as both an electoral winner and as the fulfillment of a promise their candidates made in the 2018 elections to voters to clean up corruption and expand democracy.
The For The People Act is a bill “that we can take on tour for the next two years and basically say: Why won’t Mitch McConnell bring this to the floor of the Senate? What’s he scared of? Why’s he standing against democracy?” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the lead sponsor of the House bill, told HuffPost after the bill passed the House.
“If this message of reform was as resonant as we saw it was in the ’18 midterms for the House, we can do the same thing for the Senate races,” Sarbanes added.
Support from Democratic Party presidential candidates will also help amplify the party’s pro-reform message to voters, Sarbanes argued. The Senate bill is endorsed by six declared presidential candidates.