June 24, 2021

"For the People Act" Fails to Overcome G.O.P. Filibuster

On Wednesday, a filibuster by Senate Republicans blocked H.R. 1, known as the "For the People Act." This bill was written by the Democratic party in response to election reform legislation which was passed in several Republican states, but it also included language that would have impacted the first amendment rights of organizations such as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and its affiliates (such as the IFRL).

National Right to Life wrote in a letter to Senators,

"Enactment of [H.R. 1] would not be a curb on corruption, but is itself a type of corruption – an abuse of the lawmaking power, by which incumbent lawmakers employ the threat of criminal sanctions, among other deterrents, to reduce the amount of private speech regarding the actions of the lawmakers themselves. Further, this legislation would add a commissioner to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), causing a partisan takeover by significantly increasing the likelihood that the agency could make decisions benefiting the political party in power."

The bill would have created an expansive definition for "the functional equivalent of express advocacy" which would apply to "communications that “when taken as a whole, it can be interpreted by a reasonable person only as advocating the election or defeat of a candidate for election for Federal office." Any organization that gives commentary on the votes or positions of incumbent Congress members could be interpreted to fall within this definition. Thus, these organizations could be forced to keep and report additional records. H.R. 1 would even require these organizations to post identifying information about their financial supporters online, thereby opening them up to harassment and intimidation by those who disagree with them.

By failing to surpass the 60-vote threshold required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, H.R. 1 cannot pass and limit our freedom of speech.

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