KEY POINTS
  • Senate Democrats announced the introduction of a comprehensive voting reform bill, the For the People Act, in a press conference Wednesday.
  • The legislation includes provisions that aim to make it easier to register and vote, prevent gerrymandering, improve election cybersecurity and reform campaign finance, among other initiatives.
  • The Senate Rules Committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill on March 24.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., left, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., speaks during a news conference to announce the introduction of S.1., the For the People Act in Washington on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said "everything is on the table" to pass a comprehensive voting reform bill, the For the People Act, during a press conference introducing the legislation Wednesday.

"We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don't join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take," Schumer said. "Failure is not an option."

The legislation, also known as S.1, includes provisions that aim to make it easier to register and vote, prevent gerrymandering, improve election cybersecurity and reform campaign finance, among other initiatives.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would require a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a filibuster and move to a final vote on passage.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday he supports revising the Senate filibuster to require the minority to talk on the floor to block legislation, after previously indicating he did not support efforts to eliminate the filibuster completely.

"This issue is bigger than the filibuster," said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in his first major floor speech Wednesday. "No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy."

"We must find a way to pass voting rights, whether we get rid of the filibuster or not," said Warnock, who has held onto his role as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor in the 1960s.

The House passed its version of the For the People Act, H.R.1, on March 3 with all but one Democrat voting in favor of and all Republicans voting against the legislation.

The Senate Rules Committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill March 24.

Voting access was a flashpoint during the 2020 election cycle, with prominent Republicans including former President Donald Trump continuously raising unfounded claims of fraud associated with mail-in and early voting.

Conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud led violent pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The introduction of the For the People Act in the Senate comes amid a wave of Republican-backed voter restrictions proposed in state legislatures across the country.

Lawmakers have introduced 253 bills in 43 states with provisions that would restrict voting access as of Feb. 19, according to a Brennan Center for Justice analysis.

Voting rights activists are calling on Congress to pass voting rights legislation such as the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and for Biden to use his political clout to prioritize the bills' passage.

"It's critically important that President Biden use his bully pulpit. He's got the political leverage, he's got a high popularity rating to pass a historic bill," said Cliff Albright, co-founder of advocacy group Black Voters Matter.