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The biggest Democratic divide on voting bill is between the activists and pragmatists

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee meet in the Mansfield Room in Washington on June 16, 2021.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With the Senate set to vote today on whether to proceed on S.1 — the For the People Act — the storyline is the Democratic disconnect between the activists and the pragmatists.

The activists believe the legislation — which includes protections for voting access, as well as reforms to redistricting and campaign finance — is the only true way forward to protect democracy, especially after Jan. 6.

On the other hand, the pragmatists — while they may even share the same fears about democracy — have also accepted that the votes aren’t there to overcome a GOP filibuster, to pass the legislation, or to even eliminate the filibuster.

They also point out that this legislation, a version of which was first introduced in 2019, doesn’t meet the moment of the post-2020 GOP state bills that have the potential to subvert election counts — by creating new election powers, changing election administration and punishing election officials who don’t perform their duties.

The activist-versus-pragmatist fight is also playing out on the filibuster itself. Although more and more Democratic senators have come out for eliminating the filibuster, it’s not just Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who oppose scuttling it.

President Biden won the Democratic nomination in large part because he came from the pragmatist wing of the party.

And those pragmatist tendencies probably explain why the Biden White House has worked harder in trying to pass infrastructure (where the votes are potentially there for passage) than on S1 (where they’re not).

While Senate Democrats don’t have the votes to overcome a GOP filibuster, NBC’s Frank Thorp says the biggest remaining question is whether Manchin votes yes to proceed on the legislation, so he can make his desired changes to the bill.

A Manchin yes vote could unify the party that their voting reforms should be debated on the Senate floor.

But it still wouldn’t be enough for passage.

Let’s hear it for New York

It’s Primary Day in New York City, where the top Democratic candidates running for mayor — under ranked-choice voting — are Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former mayoral counsel Maya Wiley and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

Yesterday, we wrote about the big three questions this race will answer — on the potency of crime as an issue, on whether progressives can win in the city, and on how ranked choice will play out.

Today, NBC’s Dartunorro Clark lists five things to watch in the Democratic primary.

And a reminder: We might not have a winner until next month, due to the ranked-choice voting and the counting of absentee ballots.

What we’re watching in politics over the next month

And after today’s NYC primaries, here are the other upcoming events the NBC Political Unit is watching:

  • Thursday, June 24: Nikki Haley headlines an Iowa GOP dinner in Des Moines.
  • Saturday, June 26: Donald Trump holds a rally in Wellington, Ohio.
  • Wednesday, June 30: Trump travels to the Texas border with Gov. Greg Abbott.
  • Friday, July 9: The American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) begins in Dallas.
  • Friday, July 16: Mike Pompeo returns to Iowa for a Family Leader event, with Mike Pence and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem attending, too.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

32 percent: The share of Americans who believe – without evidence – that Joe Biden won the 2020 election due to voter fraud, per a Monmouth poll.

9-0: The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in a case ruling that the NCAA had violated antitrust laws by limiting education-related aid to student athletes.

$20 million: How much Democratic super PAC Priorities USA says it will spend in an “initial investment” for 2022 to protect voting rights, focusing on litigation and digital voter education.

33,701,509: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 12,585 more than yesterday morning.)

605,687: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 344 more than yesterday morning.)

318,576,441: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

41.6 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per NBC News.

55.9 percent: The share of all American adults over 18 who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Tweet of the day

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Sahil Kapur previews today’s Senate vote on the For the People Act.

Former president Barack Obama weighed in on Republicans’ plan to filibuster the voting rights bill, calling it “not acceptable.”

And here’s Kyrsten Sinema’s Washington Post op-ed outlining her opposition to nixing the filibuster.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island is defending his membership in an exclusive beach club that critics say is all-white. (A spokesman for the senator says the club has no “restrictive policy.”)

An FBI agent acknowledged in court that a review of social media posts by Trump backers showed discussions of a “revolution” leading up to January 6.

A judge has dropped most of the charges against the Trump administration by groups who accused the government of using unnecessary force to clear Lafayette Square last June.

The Biden administration plans to back legislation to end sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine.