Republican senators filibustered a major voting bill on Wednesday, blocking Democrats’ plans to allow same-day voter registration and to make Election Day a holiday.
It is the third time Democrats have tried to overhaul voting laws this year and the third time Republicans blocked them.
The issue has become one of the key battle lines in American politics since then President Trump claimed he had been robbed of election victory last year by voter fraud.
Vice President Kamala Harris was present for the vote and said Democrats would keep pushing for reform.
‘We’re not going to give up,’ she said.
‘We’re not deterred, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and I think it’s really a sad day.’
The Freedom to Vote Act stalled in the Senate on a 51-49 vote after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (l) warned that blocking it would damage democracy, while Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats said it had the ‘same rotten core’ as previous versions
The vote went along party lines, and Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to beat the filibuster and progress to the next step
Vice President Kamala Harris was at the Senate for the vote. ‘We’re not deterred, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and I think it’s really a sad day,’ she said afterwards
Before the vote, President Biden warned Senate Republicans that democracy was at stake.
‘The sacred right to vote is under unrelenting assault across the country — and the Senate needs to take action to protect it,’ he said.
‘Senate Republicans need to allow a debate and let there be a vote on the Freedom to Vote Act. Democracy — the very soul of America — is at stake.’
But Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell pledged his opposition and said the bill retained the ‘same rotten core’ as previous, failed versions.
‘This latest bill still subjects popular, commonsense state election integrity protections like voter ID to the whims of federal bureaucrats,’ he 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.’
Majority leader Chuck Schumer said members of the chamber faced a clear choice.
‘They can follow in the footsteps of our patriotic predecessors in this chamber,’ he said.
‘Or they can sit by as the fabric of our democracy unravels before our very eyes.’
The voting bill was first introduced in March soon after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
At a time when Republican-controlled state legislatures were introducing tighter election security, egged on by Trump and his unverified claims of fraud, Democrats sought a federal bill to protect voter access.
But it stalled in the Senate, where several Democrats said they could not stomach changes to the rules to prevent Republican filibusters.
Since then they have sought changes that would make it more palatable to the GOP.
The latest version sets out national rules for running elections, limit party influence over delineating congressional districts and force disclosure of many anonymous donors.
Some of the changes were pushed by Sen. Joe Manchin, a key centrist Democratic senator, including limiting – rather than banning – voter ID requirements.
It still allows same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail voting, which are opposed by Republicans.
They have repeatedly accused Democrats of trying to rig the system against them.
Conservatives were quick to celebrate the 51-49 vote, which meant the bill would not move forward.
Alfredo Ortiz, president of the Job Creators Network, said Republicans had prevented a national takeover of elections.
‘The Freedom to Cheat Act failed today as Senate Republicans united in opposition, preventing Democrats from receiving the 60 votes they needed to break the filibuster,’ he said.
‘We applaud the Senate Republicans for recognizing the dangers of this blatantly-corrupt bill and we urge them to stay united when the Senate votes to advance the Pelosi Power Grab on Thursday.’