Senate Republicans block voting rights legislation

While the outcome of the vote was not unexpected, Democrats are using it to argue that Republicans are engaged in systemic voter suppression and a case in point for why the filibuster must be ended.

Updated - June 23, 2021 06:23 am IST

Published - June 23, 2021 06:22 am IST - Washington DC

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with reporters before a key test vote on the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that would overhaul the election system and voting rights, at the Capitol in Washington.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with reporters before a key test vote on the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that would overhaul the election system and voting rights, at the Capitol in Washington.

A procedural vote to begin debate on a voting rights bill backed by Democrats , failed to pass the U.S. Senate on Monday, after Senators voted 50-50 along party lines. The ‘For the People Act’, which sought to make access to voting easier across the country, in response to Republican-backed measures to tighten voting laws in several states, met with a filibuster from Senate Republicans, necessitating at least 60 of 100 votes to progress.

The bill included provisions to increase early voting, absentee voting, limit gerrymandering (manipulating electoral constituency boundaries to favour a particular party), establish federal financing of campaigns and automatic voter registration. It also proposed additional campaign finance disclosures. The Democrat controlled House had passed its version of the legislation in March.

While the outcome of the vote was not unexpected, Democrats are using it to argue that Republicans are engaged in systemic voter suppression and a case in point for why the filibuster must be ended.

Senate Majority Leader (Democrat) Chuck Schumer said the GOP vote against the bill was “further evidence that voter suppression has become part of the official platform of the republican party.” The vote was the ‘starting gun’ and not the ‘finish line’ , he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Democrats of a “power grab,” and said the legislation would permit them to “take a red pen to election laws in each of the 50 states neutering voting ID laws and ballot harvesting.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that the vote would be “dramatic evidence of why the filibuster needs to be modified,” as per a Reuters report.

Two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have repeatedly stated their opposition to getting rid of the filibuster. Mr. Manchin was also not on board with the legislation, citing a lack of bipartisanship, but joined his fellow Democrats at the eleventh hour, after some of his suggested modifications (on voter ID and gerrymandering) were accepted.

Democrats, including U.S. President Joe Biden, said they would persist in their efforts to expand ballot access.

“This fight is far from over — far from over. I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we are going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again — for the people, for our very democracy,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

“We have several serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression. We are going to explore every last one of our options,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor, right after the vote.

However, what legislative path they will take remains unclear, as Democrats are likely to encounter the filibuster again and will need the support of at least 60 Senators to pass future versions of the bill.

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