Republicans gave no indication they were willing to cede any ground to Democrats in a fight that stretches from the Capitol in Washington to state houses across the country. Instead, with Mr. Schumer’s Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, taking the lead, they argued that Democrats were merely using state laws as a fig leaf to justify an unnecessary and self-serving federal power grab “cooked up at the Democratic National Committee.”
“Our democracy is not in crisis, and we’re not going to let one party take over our democracy under the false pretense of saving it,” Mr. McConnell said.
He and other Republicans on the committee were careful to sidestep many of Mr. Trump’s outlandish claims of fraud, which have taken deep root in the party, fueling the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and prompting state lawmakers to adjust their election laws. But in a late-afternoon statement, Mr. Trump, who still towers over the party, made clear the connection between those lies and the push to curb ballot access, calling for every state to adopt restrictive voting laws, including voter-identification requirements, “so we never again have an election rigged and stolen from us.”
“The people are demanding real reform!” Mr. Trump wrote.
While the Rules Committee vote fulfilled Democrats’ pledge to thoroughly consider the bill before it reached the floor, it left an enormous challenge for Mr. Schumer. Progressive activists are spending millions of dollars to ramp up pressure on Democrats to quickly scrap the filibuster or miss a chance to implement the changes before 2022. The bill already passed the House with only Democratic votes.
“What is intense pressure now is only going to grow,” said Eli Zupnick, a former Senate leadership aide and a spokesman for Fix Our Senate, a coalition of liberal groups pushing to eliminate the filibuster. “There is no way out. There is no third option. It is either the filibuster or the For the People Act.”
But Mr. Manchin and a small group of others remain uncomfortable both with changing Senate rules and with provisions of the underlying bill, which also includes a public financing system for congressional candidates, far-reaching new ethics requirements for Congress and the White House, an end to gerrymandering congressional districts and dozens of other significant changes.