House Democrats (Almost) Unanimously Voted for H.R.1 — But These Votes were Contentious.

Last night, the House voted 220 to 210 in favor of H.R.1, the For the People Act. All Democrats but one (Bennie Thompson of MS-02) voted for it; every Republican voted against it.

The bill is an ambitious and important omnibus for democracy reforms:

*Expanding and protecting voting rights: H.R. 1 fights institutional barriers to voting by implementing key reforms such as automatic and same day voter registration, early and absentee voting, and complete restoration of voting rights for individuals who have completed felony sentences. H.R. 1 also prohibits voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia, and elsewhere, and makes our elections safer by bolstering federal support for voting system security. H.R. 1 unrigs the political system by ending partisan gerrymandering so voters choose their Congressional representatives, not the other way around.

*Ending the dominance of big money in politics: H.R. 1 shines a light on dark money by requiring big political spenders to disclose their large donors, modernizing online ad disclosure, and ensuring that every political ad includes disclaimers so that Americans know who is speaking and paying for the ad. The bill also modernizes the presidential small donor system and creates a similar system for congressional candidates, strengthening candidates’ focus on everyday Americans rather than wealthy donors. The systems will be entirely funded by new surcharge on corporate law breakers and wealthy tax cheats. H.R. 1 also establishes common-sense coordination limits between Super PACs and candidates, prevents foreign nationals from interfering with our democracy, and ensures that there are cops on the campaign finance beat by restructuring the Federal Election Commission.

*Ensuring public servants work for the public interest: H.R. 1 strengthens ethics laws across all three branches of government, bolstering conflict of interest restrictions, slowing the revolving door between government and the private sector, preventing Members of Congress from serving on corporate boards, and requiring presidents to disclose their tax returns. H.R. 1 also gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, closing loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents, and ensuring that watchdogs have sufficient resources to enforce the law.

Although Democrats were (almost) unanimous in support of this fine array of democracy reforms, there were two contentious votes.

As noted, among many other important provisions, H.R.1 contains language to ensure that felony convictions do not lead to lifetime disenfranchisement for formerly incarcerated individuals. Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01) filed an amendment to clarify that the voting rights restoration applies to individuals currently incarcerated for felony convictions as well.

In Maine and Vermont (not coincidentally the whitest states), incarcerated individuals maintain the right to vote regardless of their conviction. This is true in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine. In Germany, the loss of the franchise only occurs when part of a sentence for a political crime (e.g., voter intimidation) and can last no more than 5 years.

Bush’s amendment failed 97 to 328, with Democrats split 97 in favor and 119 opposed. That almost half of the Democratic caucus supported Bush’s amendment is impressive given that in last year’s Democratic presidential primary, only Bernie Sanders was supportive of ending felony disenfranchisement.

Here are the 97:

The House Democratic Caucus was also split on Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s amendment to lower the voting age to 16 for federal elections.

The amendment failed 125 to 302, with 125 Democrats in favor and 93 opposed.

Here are the 125:

So who voted for both, and what accounts for the difference?

There were 24 Democrats who voted for Bush’s amendment but not Pressley’s:

Rep. Mike Doyle, who supported Bush’s amendment, was absent for the vote on Pressley’s.

51 Democrats voted for Pressley’s amendment but not Bush’s:

Brendan Boyle and Ruben Gallego, who voted for Pressley’s amendment, were absent for the vote on Bush’s.

72 Democrats voted for both amendments:

Two years ago — almost to the day — Pressley roll-called the same amendment. Then, as now, it got 125 Democratic supporters. But the composition of that 125 changed.

  • Jake Auchincloss, Jamaal Bowman, Sara Jacobs, Mondaire Jones, Kai Kahele, Teresa Leger Fernandez, Ritchie Torres, and Nikema Williams all replaced Democrats who had also voted for the amendment.
  • Marie Newman and Marilyn Strickland replaced Democrats who had voted against the amendment, and Cori Bush’s predecessor had been absent.
  • Supporters Abby Finkenauer, Katie Hill, Kendra Horn, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Max Rose, Harley Rouda, and Donna Shalala have been replaced by Republicans.
  • Delegates Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Stacey Plaskett (VI), and Gregorio Sablan (NMI) voted in 2019 but did not vote this time.
  • Emanuel Cleaver, Jim Cooper, Lois Frankel, Chuy Garcia, Jared Golden, Andy Kim, Jimmy Panetta, Bill Pascrell, Dean Phillips, Mike Quigley, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Frederica Wilson went from NO to YES. Jimmy Gomez went from absent to YES.
  • Sanford Bishop, Marcia Fudge, Hank Johnson, Cedric Richmond, and Abigail Spanberger went from YES to NO, and Steven Horsford — who had been a YES — was absent.

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