Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked Democrats from advancing a revised bill to overhaul federal elections, marking the latest blow to hopes of getting voting legislation to President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE.
The Senate voted 49-51 to end debate on whether to bring up the bill, known as the Freedom to Vote Act, falling short of the 60 needed.
The bill would make Election Day a national holiday, set national minimum standards for early voting and voting by mail and include standards for states requiring voter identification. It also has new requirements on disclosing who is behind online ads and aims to stop partisan gerrymandering
Democrats view voting rights and election reform as a top priority as GOP states debate and, in some cases, enact new laws in the wake of the 2020 election, which former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE and some of his closest allies have falsely claimed was stolen.
“For every two steps forward, sometimes there are those who try to pull us one step back. Unfortunately, we find ourselves today in the midst of such a struggle. Across the country, the Big Lie – the Big Lie – has spread like a cancer as many states across the nation have passed the most draconian restrictions against voting that we’ve seen in decades. If nothing is done, these laws will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate in their government,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday.
Schumer switched his vote to "no," a procedural step that allows him to bring the bill back up for another vote.
Biden and Vice President Harris made calls to senators this week on voting rights, according to a White House official, with the president talking to Democratic Sens. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Georgia becomes ground zero for 2022 elections Maternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now MORE (Ga.) and Alex PadillaAlex Padilla91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill MORE (Calif.) and Harris speaking with Sens. Angus KingAngus KingAmazon, Facebook, other large firms would pay more under proposed minimum tax, Warren's office says Senators look to defense bill to move cybersecurity measures Energy information chief blames market for high fuel prices MORE (I-Maine) and Jon OssoffJon OssoffGeorgia becomes ground zero for 2022 elections Democrats anxious over Abrams silence on Georgia governor bid Perdue on possible run for Georgia governor: 'I'm concerned about the state of our state' MORE (D-Ga.) as well as Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden should seek some ideological diversity House passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas MORE (D-Minn.).
“The administration is continuing to press for voting rights legislation to safeguard our democracy from these historic threats to constitutional freedoms and the integrity of elections through legislation, executive actions, outreach, the bully pulpit, and all other means available,” the official added.
The Brennan Center for Justice, which supports the Democratic bill, found in a report released earlier this month that 19 states have enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. The Brennan Center also found that a total of 425 bills that restrict voting access had been introduced in 49 states during the 2021 legislative sessions.
Part of the problem for Democrats is that the only way to pass voting rights and election legislation without needing 10 GOP votes would be to nix or create a carveout from the legislative filibuster. But that would require total unity from the 50-member Senate Democratic caucus behind the idea, something they don’t have.
Democrats previously tried to bring a more expansive bill known as the For the People Act to the Senate floor, but were blocked by Republicans earlier this year.
Democrats then spent months trying to craft a narrower bill that united all 50 of their members. The new bill was negotiated by Klobuchar, King, Padilla and Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineLiberty University professor charged with alleged sexual battery and abduction of student Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Menendez jabs State official over Colombian group's terror designation MORE (D-Va.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Lawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO MORE (D-Ore.) Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Senators huddle on path forward for SALT deduction in spending bill MORE (D-Mont.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems press drillers over methane leaks Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Joe Manchin should embrace paid leave — now MORE (D-W.Va.), who was the party’s biggest holdout on the For the People Act.
Democrats had been expected to vote on the bill as soon as they returned from a weeks-long break in early August. But Schumer delayed the vote as Democrats gave Manchin time to try to figure out if there were 10 Republicans who could support the bill, or were recommending specific changes.
But on Wednesday no Republicans voted for the bill, arguing that it was an overreach by the federal government.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellUS could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal MORE (Ky.) called the Senate bill an “election takeover scheme.”
“The Senate knows how to make law in a productive, bipartisan way. We’ve done it this year on multiple subjects. We have done it on election issues themselves in recent memory when there was an actual problem that needed solving and an actually bipartisan process,” he added.
“But as long as Senate Democrats remain fixated on their radical agenda, this body will continue to do the job the framers assigned it, and stop terrible ideas in their tracks,” McConnell continued.
The Honest Elections Project, a conservative outside group, termed the Democratic bill the “Freedom to Cheat Act,” and argued that it would limit states' ability to require voter ID, ban “sensible” absentee voting rules and would place new requirements on states' redistricting efforts.
Democrats offered to let Republicans offer amendments to make changes to the bill if GOP members let them start debate on the legislation.
“I want to be clear: if Republicans join us in proceeding to this bill, I am prepared to hold a full-fledged debate worthy of the U.S. Senate,” Schumer said.
“What we can’t accept is a situation where one side is calling for bipartisan debate and bipartisan cooperation while the other refuses to even engage in a dialogue. If our Republican colleagues don’t like our ideas they have a responsibility to present their own,” he added.
--Updated at 3:40 p.m.