Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ latest effort to rewrite America’s election and voting laws Wednesday, as progressive activists piled on the pressure to modify the chamber’s 60-vote legislative filibuster — or scrap it completely.
The motion to end debate on the measure, now known as the Freedom to Vote Act, received 49 “yea” votes and 51 “nay” votes. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) initially voted “yea” but changed his vote to “nay” so that he could bring up the motion again at a later date.
Following the vote, Schumer accused Senate Republicans of giving their “implicit endorsement of the horrid new voter suppression and election subversion laws pushed in conservative states across the country.”
The initial version of the bill, then known as the For the People Act, was introduced in March and quickly passed the Democratic-controlled House. Progressives portrayed it as a way to counter laws in states like Texas, Georgia and Florida that enhanced voter ID measures and restricted the availability of absentee and mail-in ballots.
However, the measure has stalled in the upper chamber due to the filibuster hurdle. Wednesday marked the third time this year that the bill has failed to clear a test vote.
The version of the bill that was voted on Wednesday includes several alterations sought by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — including a provision that would limit, but not prohibit, state voter ID requirements. The measure also would establish national rules for running elections, ban partisan gerrymandering, and force the disclosure of many anonymous campaign donors.
Despite Manchin’s efforts to make the legislation more appealing to Republicans, no GOP senator has even supported opening debate on the measure.
In remarks on the Senate floor prior to the vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described the bill as “only a compromise in the sense that the left and the far left argued among themselves about exactly how much power to grab in which areas.”
“This latest bill still subjects popular, commonsense state election integrity protections like voter ID to the whims of federal bureaucrats,” McConnell said. “It still sends government money to political campaigns, for goodness sakes. It still puts Washington in the middle of the states’ redistricting decisions. And on and on. The same rotten core is all there.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that the Senate GOP’s intransigence was “an incredible frustration” to the Biden administration.
“Today, what happened was Republicans in Congress refused to even allow a vote — even allow a vote to protect people’s votes across the country,” she said. “What are they so afraid of? Why are they so fearful of allowing more people to have access, making it easier across the country?”
“The right to vote – to vote freely, to vote fairly, and to have your vote counted – is fundamental,” Biden himself said in a statement before the vote. “It should be simple and straightforward. Let there be a debate and let there be a vote.”
Following the vote, Sen. Angus King (I-Me.), who caucuses with the Democrats, indicated that he was willing to support an exception to the legislative filibuster for the election reform legislation.
“I want a compromise, first and foremost,” King said. “But absent that, I am open to protecting our democratic system of government through structural reforms that ensure that we protect ballot access for all of our citizens. Our elections are the backbone of America’s democracy – and that democracy is more important than any Senate rule.”
Changing the Senate filibuster rule would require the support of all 50 Senate Democrats, and both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said they will not support such a move.
The ensuing stalemate has aggravated liberal and progressive groups, who made themselves heard again on Wednesday.
“They have failed to pass substantive legislation, and they are failing to act now,” said Joseph Geevarghese, the executive director of Bernie Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution. “It needs to be made even more clear by the President that he is 100% on the side of the American people’s most sacred right, and if that means fixing the filibuster then we must do it for the sake of our democracy.”
NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson called the outcome “reprehensible” and “appalling.”
“There is no such thing as bipartisanship when one half of a legislative body does not respect the Constitution which they swore an oath to protect,” Johnson said in a statement. “Don’t forget that Black voters landed a victory for this President and this Congress, so don’t fail us again.”
With Post wires