On the Hill
The junior senator from California is coming in 🔥.
Sen. Alex Padilla was selected just nine months ago to serve out the final two years of Vice President, née Sen. Kamala D. Harris‘s term. But he’s fast become a leading voice on some of the biggest issues vexing Democrats, from voting rights to appealing the Senate parliamentarian’s decision against including immigration measures in the $3.5 trillion budget proposal.
Padilla is one of four former secretaries of state currently serving — and he’s wielded that expertise to push forward voting rights legislation.
Lawmakers could vote as early as this week on the newly introduced the Freedom to Vote Act — the pared down voting rights and campaign finance and ethics bill co-sponsored by Padilla and seven Democrats, including centrist Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).
The bill, which eliminated key language in the For the People Act, is unlikely to garner the 10 Republican votes needed to avoid a filibuster.
Padilla has tried to win over some of his GOP colleagues, but isn’t hopeful.
- “I’m pretty frustrated,” Padilla told The Early in an interview on Friday. “It offends me when I hear that they want to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat because I know the data — voter fraud is exceedingly rare in America.”
- “So we got the hard-to-cheat part down. But here we have a proposal that will make it easier for eligible people to vote … And there’s no willingness on Republicans to come along. I’m still waiting to hear ‘yesses’ on even this focused and tailored measure.”
All roads lead to the filibuster
Unlike Manchin, Padilla has taken a far more urgent approach and believes Democrats should eliminate the filibuster if — and when — the vote fails.
He stressed the vote should be the “final straw” for his colleagues “reluctant to abolish or even reform the filibuster to allow voter protection measures.”
Bringing the reinforcements. Padilla and his colleagues say they have a short window to persuade their colleagues to change or repeal the filibuster if voting rights legislation goes down, given redistricting setting the lines for the 2022 midterms. Even so, that’s still a long shot.
Padilla said President Biden’s involvement and influence over centrist Democrats who are not willing to scrap the filibuster could be “helpful.” He added that Harris has been actively reaching out to former colleagues on the Hill on the issue.
“Very few people are as good at relationships as President Biden.”