Federal voting rights push nears quiet end: The Note

Republicans are expected to block Dems' latest attempt to pass a bill this week.

October 19, 2021, 5:48 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The long and not-that-winding road for Congress to pursue voting rights reform this year is about to come to a quiet and predictable end.

If, as seems almost certain, Senate Republicans block the latest attempt by Democrats to pass a voting bill at the federal level this week, the inaction will stand despite a flurry of new state laws that will make voting more cumbersome next year.

Most have come in GOP-controlled states and were inspired at least in part by the "big lie" about the last election that former President Donald Trump continues to push.

Unlike stalled bills on infrastructure and social programs, Democratic divisions won't be the primary culprit. On this issue, failure will come in part because Democrats tried to seek 50 votes as opposed to 60 -- or because leaders assumed that getting their party united would convince a familiar few senators that it's time to rewrite Senate rules.

PHOTO: Voting rights activists rally at the White House, in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2021.
Voting rights activists rally at the White House, in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2021.
Allison Bailey/Shutterstock

The state of play is fueling anger with a critical part of the Democratic base. NAACP President Derrick Johnson told The Washington Post he finds it "appalling" that President Joe Biden hasn't put a greater priority on protecting voting rights, saying it "will be the undoing of the legacy for this presidency."

Asked about that quote on Monday by ABC's Cecilia Vega, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration shares the frustration but that it should be directed at Senate Republicans.

Voting rights, she said, are "under unprecedented assault by proponents of the 'big lie' and Republican legislators -- state legislators across the country. It is urgent."

The urgency has never really been a question for Democrats, particularly with Trump insisting that his party pursue his false claims. But the question of prioritization and strategy will linger as rules for voting change going into midterm races.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

The outlook for 2022 midterm elections is becoming more complicated for Democrats, with two more veteran lawmakers announcing retirements on Monday ahead of an election year that will determine whether their party maintains control of Congress.

Although the retiring Reps. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and David Price of North Carolina each currently occupy safely blue seats, redistricting efforts in both battleground states could alter their boundaries to lean more in favor of Republicans.

Doyle already indicated an expectation that his Pittsburgh-area district would be affected by redistricting during his retirement announcement, while also adding that "the time has come to pass the torch to the next generation."

PHOTO: Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle speaks during a news conference on Oct. 18, 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa., to announce that he will not be running to re-election and plans to retire after his current term.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle speaks during a news conference on Oct. 18, 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa., to announce that he will not be running to re-election and plans to retire after his current term.
Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

"The redistricting will change this district, and most likely push it outside of Allegheny County. This is a good transition time for a new member to start in a new district," Doyle said.

He and Price bring the number of Democrat retirements up to seven -- others include Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Filemon Vela of Texas, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and John Yarmuth of Kentucky. Five additional Democrats are giving up their seats to run for other political offices, leaving open competitive opportunities in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Doyle and Price were not on the National Republican Congressional Committee's original "exit list" of anticipated pre-midterm Democrat retirements that the group announced earlier this year, but Republicans are nonetheless seizing on the recent series of departures as promising momentum for next year's contests.

The TIP with Meg Cunningham

As states get ready to approve new congressional maps, Illinois Democrats are under bipartisan fire over their proposed gerrymandered changes, which could eliminate at least two Republican-leaning districts across the state.

Of the state's 102 counties , 42 would be split up, with two districts spanning large swaths of the state to connect some Democratic-leaning rural voters. Republicans argue that the map was designed to protect incumbents, but even Democrats are angry with the proposal, which could give them control over 14 of the 17 U.S. House districts. Some say it doesn't go far enough.

National Democrats reportedly drafted a second map, which would cushion them in the House with one more likely seat.

PHOTO: In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Democrat Marie Newman campaigns in Chicago.
In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Democrat Marie Newman campaigns in Chicago.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP, FILE

"It is abundantly apparent that what has currently been proposed for Illinois' 3rd Congressional District is not only retrogressive but substantially diminishes the diverse and progressive voices of Chicago's southwest side and suburbs," said Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, whose district could turn more competitive.

While Republicans generally control the process nationwide, Democrats have an opportunity to try to protect their narrow majority in the House through gerrymandering in Illinois. Their attempt to do so has gotten their map a grade of 'F' from the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project.


Retired British spy Christopher Steele, who penned the controversial 2016 research report on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, said he has not cooperated with the ongoing federal probe into the FBI's conduct during its investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, and does not believe he will be swept into it. In his first public remarks on the long-running probe by special counsel John Durham, Steele told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview that he will be "interested to see what he publishes and what he says about us and others."


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features the fight between police departments and cities imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. ABC News' Alex Perez is in Chicago reporting on the public health crisis potentially turning into a public safety issue. Then, ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz talks about Colin Powell's legacy after the former secretary of state died of COVID-19 complications. And, in a huge step forward for China's military capability, there are reports that the country has tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile. ABC News contributor Steve Ganyard explains why the U.S. should be concerned. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • President Joe Biden receives the president's daily brief at 9:30 am. Then, he, Vice President Kamala Harris and the secretary of the treasury meet with House progressives and a bicameral group of moderates to discuss Biden's legislative agenda.
  • Republican nominee for governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin holds an early vote rally in Stafford, Virginia, at 12:30 p.m. In the evening, he makes an announcement at an event in Fairfax County, Virginia, at 7 p.m.
  • Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe tours a woman-owned small business in Northern Virginia at 12:45 p.m.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the co-chairs of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, hold a virtual press conference at 5:30 p.m. to discuss congressional maps proposed by Democrats in Illinois
  • The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol convenes for a business meeting at 7:30 p.m. to vote on adopting a report recommending the House of Representatives cite former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress after he defied the committee's subpoena.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.