Senate Republicans blocked a bill to revamp federal elections on Tuesday, escalating already heightened tensions over voting rights.
Senators split 50-50 on whether to advance the For the People Act in an equally divided Senate, failing to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.
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The vote comes after weeks of party animosity and behind-the-scenes discussions over revising the country’s voting laws in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
That election was significant not only because it occurred during the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in record levels of mail-in voting, but also because of former President Trump’s baseless claims that massive voter fraud led to his defeat, an argument that culminated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and continues to reverberate in conservative circles.
Since then, several states, including Georgia, which President Biden won by a razor-thin margin and then gave the Democrats a Senate majority, have made changes to their voting laws, igniting a fierce debate over whether the new rules will limit the votes of Democrats and minority groups, edging them out of control of Congress.
Vice President Harris presided over the hours-long Senate debate and vote, underscoring the issue’s political importance to Democrats.
Republicans slammed the plan ahead of Tuesday’s vote, calling it a partisan takeover of federal elections and the type of legislation that the Senate’s filibuster was designed to stop.
“The Senate is not an impediment to properly enacted voting laws….” When policy is bad and the process is broken, the Senate becomes an impediment. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated, “And that is precisely why this body exists.”
Republicans have promised for weeks that they would prohibit Democrats from ever putting their bill up for consideration, let alone passing it, so the outcome of Tuesday’s vote was never in doubt.
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Democrats, on the other hand, have been hosting a frenzy of meetings in an attempt to shore up support from inside their own ranks. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a centrist, said hours before the vote that he had made an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to support the bill.
This insured that Democrats would be united behind the bill, allowing them to claim that Republicans were the only ones voting against even starting a debate on the subject.
“All 50 Democrats will vote ‘yes,’ because we all want the debate to begin…. Will the Republicans move forward or are they unanimously opposed?” is the question now. According to Schumer.
Manchin kept his colleagues guessing until Tuesday afternoon as he tried to reach an agreement on the roughly 800-page bill with Schumer and Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
“These sensible amendments have propelled the bill forward to the point where it can be debated on the Senate floor….” As I previously stated, the right to vote is important to our American democracy, and its protection should not be based on political affiliation. In a statement, Manchin added, “I remain dedicated to finding a bipartisan route ahead because the future of our democracy is worth it.”
In exchange for Manchin voting to launch debate, Schumer promised to offer Manchin a vote on his idea as a substitute amendment, which never happened because Democrats were unable to open debate on the bill. It would have been the first amendment to be taken into consideration.
Even though Democrats proclaimed their unity, there was significant internal bickering about Manchin’s idea.
National voting standards were established, the Federal Election Commission’s composition was altered, new constraints on congressional redistricting were imposed, campaign funding was revised, and new ethical requirements for the president and vice president were incorporated.
Manchin supports making Election Day a federal holiday, mandating at least 15 consecutive days for early voting in federal elections, outlawing gerrymandering, and strengthening campaign financing regulations, according to a list he emailed to his colleagues.
“Today’s vote is only the start of the battle. We and allies have known Republicans would obstruct for months while we’ve worked on this issue,” the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said to its members. “We’ll be pushing Democrats to reform the filibuster over the next month.”