What has been overlooked in media accounts, amidst all the speechifying, caucusing and presidential jawboning over voting rights, is the roundabout way the issue was being forced in both houses, using the drastic tactic of attaching an amalgam of election reform bills to a completely unrelated NASA leasing measure that had previously passed both chambers. The procedural sleight-of-hand was so deft that it left many legislators standing on the side-lines, scratching their heads and wondering, “What just happened? How did they do that? and, Why wasn’t I involved?”
The irony of passing a bill purportedly aimed at bolstering American democracy using tactics that circumvented the regular democratic order in Congress was jaw-dropping. Begin with the fact that neither of the two main bills in play, the “For the People Act” (H.R. 1), and the “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act” (H.R. 4), had been reported by any committee of jurisdiction in this Congress. Instead, both were discharged by special rules from the Rules Committee in February and August, respectively, with 50 floor amendments allowed to the former (48 by Democrats), and no amendments allowed to the latter bill. Both measures were then passed by party-line votes. Unreported Senate companion bills to the two measures (S.1 and S.4) were brought to the floor in August and November, but did not advance further.