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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 MerkleyElectric vehicles see state-level gains GOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (Ore.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Judge tosses land management plans after ousting Pendley from role | Trump says he could out-raise Biden with calls to Wall Street, oil execs | Supreme Court to review Trump border wall funding, asylum policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects  Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' 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 BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration 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 TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote 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.