The Senate on Tuesday blocked a massive election-reform bill as Democrats fell short of the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster threat.
The Senate voted 50-50 on a motion to proceed with debate over the bill. The result was split evenly between the parties, but fe;; 10 votes short of the 60 needed to move the legislation forward.
The outcome was not a surprise but still a disappointment to progressive activists, including those in entertainment, who saw the bill as a necessity amid Republican efforts to restrict voting at the state level. Georgia, Arizona and Florida are among the GOP-controlled statehouses that have passed recent restrictions on voting.
“The fight is not over,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters just outside the Senate chamber after she presided over the vote.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said that Democrats plan to continue to highlight the need for legislation, with the Rules Committee set to hold a series of hearings, including one in Georgia.
The failure of the legislation to move forward is likely to accelerate calls to end the filibuster, which progressives and activists have targeted as a relic that once enabled southern senators to retain Jim Crow laws.
The bill — S.1, or the For the People Act — would have ended partisan gerrymandering, expanded voting rights, created new public campaign financing, made voter registration easier and required presidential and vice presidential candidates to disclose 10 years worth of their tax returns.
Just hours before the vote, one of the bill’s opponents, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he would vote to begin debate, albeit with the guarantee that the Senate would take up his own proposal for a scaled-down version of the legislation. Manchin’s vote to proceed allowed Democrats to stay united, even if the result was a legislative defeat. After he voted, Manchin shook hands with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Schumer then returned the gesture by patting the West Virginia senator’s hand.
Republicans opposed H.R. 1, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “power grab” and a “recipe for undermining confidence in our elections.” But McConnell and his colleagues also quickly opposed Manchin’s compromise when he unveiled it last week, even though it includes the type of election security measures they long have favored: Voter ID requirements.
Schumer said that former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen “became the match that lit a wildfire of Republican voter-suppression laws sweeping across the country.” He called for passage of the legislation to counter those efforts.
“Because of one man’s lie, Republicans are now doing the dastardly act of taking away voting from millions of Americans – millions of Americans – making it much harder for them to vote, and many, many, many will not,” he said.
Later, after the bill’s defeat, Schumer said that McConnell “uses the language and the logic of the southern senators in the 60s who defended state’s rights, and it is an indefensible position. And yet that was the reason for why the Republicans voted in lockstep today.” But Republicans across the aisle conversed among themselves as Schumer spoke, to the point where he had to ask for order.
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