Senate Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill

The United States Capitol in Washington DC.

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Senate blocked a sweeping bill on the right to vote and was ready for consider proposed changes to House filibuster rules after months of wrangling over how far Congress should go to protect democracy.

Republicans voted against promoting legislation that would expand early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday, among other reforms.

The legislation that was voted on Wednesday in the Senate combined key provisions from two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Promotion Act.

Vice President Kamala Harris has arrived on Capitol Hill to preside over tonight’s debate on the Freedom to Vote Act.

A motion to end debate on the measure it failed with a vote of 51-49. Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, changed its vote to no for procedural reasons.

“To all members of this body who treasure our precious experiment in self-governance, to all members horrified by voter suppression garbage, and to all who believe this house is still capable of defending democracy in its hour of great necessity, I urge you to vote in favor,” Schumer said Wednesday on the floor of the Upper House before the vote.

Harris spoke after Republicans blocked Democrats’ election legislation, calling it a “historic night.”

History will certainly record and observe the votes that are taking place”

kamala harris

“This is about the fundamental freedom to vote and what should be unrestricted access to the ballot. I’m here to make a strong statement that whatever happens tonight with the outcome of this vote, the President and I are not going to give up on this issue. This is fundamental to our democracy and is non-negotiable,” Harris said.

Next step

Democrats plan to vote on changing Senate rules to require so-called parliamentary filibuster only for the voting rights bill.

The change would force Republican senators to actively speak on the Senate floor to block the legislation, rather than deny their support on a vote. If all the senators exhausted their speeches (each is allowed up to two speeches, with no time limit), the Senate could then pass the bills to protect the right to vote with a simple majority.

While adjusting the Senate rules would require a simple majority, it too is expected to fail.

Two Democrats, Senators Kyrsten Synema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have said they will oppose most of the proposed changes to filibuster.

All 50 senators from the Democratic caucus have endorsed the voting rights bills before the Senate. They have not agreed on the need to discard obstructionism to approve them.

Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, who spent more than 30 years in the Senate, urged the party to back the proposed rule changes.

It is unclear now how Democrats will proceed once the voting rights effort fails. Some Republicans have been open to reforming the electoral vote counting process after a presidential election to make it more difficult to overturn a result.

With information from CNBC and CNN

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