Senate Republicans blocked a widespread Democratic bill on voting and government ethics on Tuesday as federal efforts to respond to a range of restrictive electoral bills passed by GOP-held state parliaments clashed .
The For the People Act aims, among other things, to set up automatic voter registration, to expand early voting, to ensure more transparency in political donations and to limit the partial drawing of congressional districts. Democrats pushed for reforms ahead of the 2020 elections but felt they were more necessary to protect the democratic process after former President Donald Trump’s false claims of electoral fraud sparked an attack on the Capitol and restrictive state electoral measures.
The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in March. The move failed a Senate procedural test on Tuesday as Republicans voted against opening a debate on it.
The plan took 60 votes to advance in the Senate, evenly divided among parties. It fell along the party lines by 50-50 votes.
After the bill failed to advance, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., criticized his GOP colleagues for their reluctance to initiate the process of debating and changing the bill.
“Now Republican senators may have prevented us from having a debate on voting rights today,” he said. “But I would like to say one thing very clearly: The fight for the protection of voting rights is not over yet. No way. In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting shot, not the finish line.”
Schumer said the Senate had “several serious opportunities to rethink this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression.” He said he planned to “explore every last of our options”.
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Republicans have called the bill a Democratic takeover. You have argued that states, rather than the federal government, should have leeway to enact electoral laws.
The GOP has also questioned the need for a new bill to protect voting rights. Republicans have downplayed the restrictive laws in states like Georgia and Florida, which have taken measures including making postal votes more difficult and limiting ballot boxes. Critics of the measures say they would disproportionately harm black voters and give GOP officials more power over the election results.
Prior to the Senate vote, minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Called the Democratic bill a “transparent partisan plan” and stressed that it was in the works before Republican-led legislators passed voting bills.
“The Senate is only an obstacle when the policy is flawed and the process is lazy,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attends a press conference held by Republican Senators on the HR1 – For the People Act on June 17, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Schumer denied the argument that the federal government should not exercise its will on electoral laws. He referred to previous bills such as the Voting Rights Act, which protected voters from discrimination.
The Biden government officially endorsed the For the People Act as the president sees voting rights as an important item on his agenda. In a statement after the vote, Biden said the Democrats “came together unanimously to protect sacred suffrage”.
He later continued, “Unfortunately, a democratic stance to protect our democracy met a solid Republican opposition wall. The Republicans in the Senate even opposed debate – even contemplating – laws to protect suffrage and our democracy.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who had met with proxies for the past few weeks, led the Senate vote on Tuesday. She plans to promote registration and work with leaders pushing back restrictive bills in the coming weeks, NBC News reported.
The For the People Act has little chance of being revived in the current Senate. At least two Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – oppose the abolition of the filibuster bill that would allow the party to pass more bills without Republicans.
Liberals have urged the party to abolish the 60-vote barrier as the Democrats pursue their priorities with control of the White House and tight majorities in the House and Senate.
But Manchin has signaled that he would oppose the final passage of the Democratic-led bill, potentially the chances of killing his passage even without the filibuster. He said he wanted to approve a voting plan with GOP support, although Republicans oppose more modest plans to protect ballots.
Manchin proposed a possible compromise that would include Democrat-backed provisions such as 15-day early voting for federal elections and automatic voter registration with state motor vehicle authorities. It also calls for requirements to identify voters who Republicans have usually supported.
McConnell shot down the plan, arguing that it contained the “rotten core” of the Democratic bill.
Some people didn’t commit to voting until Tuesday afternoon to start a debate on their party’s law. Schumer announced an agreement to incorporate Manchin’s proposal as an amendment when the For the People Act clears procedural voting.
The Senator’s support ensured that any Democrat would vote for the bill while the Republicans blocked it.
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