H.R. 1 Was Always Doomed to Fail, and the Democrats Have Nothing Else

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In the world of Congressional politics, there is a rule most people like to conveniently ignore every time a new Congress is seated: H.R. 1 is never meant to become law.

The first bill of each Congress is always a messaging bill put out by the party in power. It is a list of lofty goals meant to signal to the base that “We are fighting for you!” In truth, though, H.R. 1 is meant to be a platform, not an actual law.

So, while a lot of people have been very worried about Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema breaking their word and voting to obliterate the filibuster, keeping the history of prior H.R. 1 bills in mind and understanding that Manchin and Sinema are playing the long game certainly indicated the bill would die a proper death in the Senate.

Naturally, media outlets across the board blamed the GOP for the bill being defeated. They make no mention of the fact that Manchin himself was not going to vote for it and was only on board with a “compromise” that has yet to be written in the form of a bill. They make no note of the fact that said “compromise” would have offered some of the very things that many Democrats trashed several Republican state bills for including. They make no note of the fact that it was defeated by Democrats who would not jump on board with the party’s stated goal of eliminating the filibuster.

The Republicans only came in to make the killing of the bill official. It was dead long ago.

Nothing in the bill actually would have increased voting rights or access to anyone who didn’t already legally have it, but it would have made it much easier for the system to be gamed. It did not fix things that the Democrats said were killing democracy — in fact, the fabled Manchin compromise would have created a federal voter ID law, the very thing Democrats were crying the loudest over in Georgia and other states.

But, the messaging was there and the Democrats fought like hell to get the message out there. Their preferred talking points were adopted by the media. In the end, though, like most modern H.R. 1 bills that came before, it will not have any long-term effect on the political landscape of America. No one is pulling the lever or pushing a button in 2022 or 2024 based on this one bill.

You know what people will pull the lever or push a button for?

And that’s just to name a few.

The Democrats are laser-focused on putting race issues at the forefront of their electoral strategy for 2022, but it’s not going to win them any extra seats. In fact, at this moment, the strategy is only good for keeping their progressive base together even as moderate voters begin to swing back to the Republican Party — a party which, despite media and Democratic wishes to the contrary, will be noticeably without Donald Trump on the ballot.

Midterms are historically bad for the party in power, and in this case, it could be apocalyptic as the Democrats really have no room for error. They have a handful of seats in the majority in the House and a 50/50 split in the Senate. It is very possible that they will lose the House and it’s not impossible for them to lose the Senate in 2022. Given the focus on the Senate right now, it looks like House Democrats are quietly acknowledging that they are going to fall out of power in next year’s election. The Democratic Party is bringing all of their fighting to the Senate, where they think they’ll have the best chance at holding on to power.

That does not speak well for their cause, and putting a voting rights bill that really does nothing for voting rights as their platform ahead of 2022 is a sign that they are just out of ideas right now.