GOP senator blocks sweeping election reform bill

A Republican senator blocked a sweeping House-passed election and ethics reform bill on Wednesday, the latest of several failed attempts by Democrats to advance election-related legislation ahead of 2020.
 
Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyPortland protesters clash with law enforcement for first time since federal presence diminished New York police confirm arrest of protester in unmarked van Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors MORE (Ore.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallGOP lawmaker says he will oppose any attempts to delay election Trump raises idea of delaying election Cook Political Report shifts several Senate races toward Democrats MORE (N.M.) tried to pass the ethics and elections reform measure, known as H.R. 1, which they argued had been buried in the upper chamber's "legislative graveyard."
 
"The For the People Act repairs our broken campaign finance system, opens up the ballot box to all Americans [and] lays waste to the corruption in Washington," Udall said. "We must unite in defense of our electoral system and in defense of the sanctity of our democracy."
 
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Merkley argued that the bill was crucial "because everything else we care about ... is going to fail if we let this chamber be controlled by powerful special interests through this corrupted system."
 
But Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Pelosi to require masks on House floor MORE (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, objected to the bill's passage, arguing that the legislation would "give the federal government unprecedented control over elections in this country."
 
"Apparently the powerful special interests that my friend Mr. Merkley talked about are the state governments, because that's what we're taking authority from here. ... The For the People Act is really the Federal Government Act," he said.
 
Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to vote on or pass a bill, but any other senator can object to and block the legislation.
 
The House bill and an identical Senate companion measure include a requirement for paper ballots and standards for early voting, but they also include unrelated provisions such as requiring a president and vice president to release their tax returns — a clear swipe at President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE, who broke with precedent by declining to release his tax returns when he ran for president.
 
The legislation passed the Democratic-controlled House in a 234-193 vote in March, and Democrats have been urging Republicans to take it up in the Senate ever since.
 
Udall tried to counter Blunt on Wednesday by arguing that the bill "supports states" and "puts the American people back in charge."
 
The back-and-forth on the Senate floor marked the latest example of Democrats trying — without success — to pass election-related legislation ahead of the 2020 elections. 

Election security has become a point of contention during the Trump era, with House Democrats passing several election-related bills that have hit a wall in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans blocked several election-related bills last week, including legislation to require campaigns notify the FBI of offers of foreign assistance and a separate bill to make sure political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio.