Voting legislation blocked — again — in Senate as Republicans unite for filibuster

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Republicans prevent major voting bill from advancing in Senate for second time this year.

Schumer: Republicans are 'ludicrous' for blocking voting rights bill debate

Oct. 20, 202102:58By Sahil Kapur

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans filibustered a major voting bill on Wednesday that would allow automatic same-day voter registration and make Election Day a holiday.

The 49-51 vote on the procedural motion was short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation to the next stage, marking the second time this year Republicans have prevented a Democratic-backed voting bill from moving forward.

The measure known as the Freedom to Vote Act had full Democratic support on Wednesday after the party scaled back an earlier, more expansive bill to win the backing of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. All 50 Democrats backed the bill, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” in order to allow him to request another vote in the future, a common procedural maneuver.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had vowed Republicans would oppose the measure.

“It is my hope and anticipation that none of us will vote for this latest iteration of Democratic efforts to take over how every American votes all over the country,” he said on Tuesday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, the Republican who has been most willing to engage with Democrats on voting rights, explained her vote to block the bill earlier, saying she was more interested in the House-passed John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Sen. Raphael Warnock on Freedom to Vote Act

Oct. 19, 202107:47

The Freedom to Vote Act would allow automatic and same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail voting. It would give states flexibility in implementing some provisions, like early voting, and make Election Day a holiday. It also would seek to protect federal election records and insulate nonpartisan state and local election officials from undue interference.

Schumer, D-N.Y., had called the bill a “balanced” and “common sense” proposal aimed at protecting the right to vote from restrictive state laws, including those inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election.

“Across the country, the big lie — the big lie — has spread like a cancer,” Schumer said Wednesday before the vote. “The Freedom To Vote Act would provide long overdue remedies for all these concerns.”

President Joe Biden said after the vote that the Senate “needs to act to protect the sacred constitutional right to vote, which is under unrelenting assault by proponents of the Big Lie, and Republican Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys-General, and state legislatures across the nation.”

“It is urgent,” he added. “Democracy — the very soul of America — is at stake.”

Biden’s statement did not mention making any changes to the longstanding filibuster rule that requires 60 votes for most legislation to proceed. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Manchin have indicated they are unwilling to alter the Senate rule.

Schumer had framed Wednesday’s vote as merely a step to begin debate, and had promised that Republicans would “be able to offer amendments” to change the bill as they see fit.

A Senate vote in June to advance the broader For The People Act voting rights bill was split 50-50 along party lines, falling short of the 60 needed to advance.


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