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Senate Republicans block voting rights bill, leaving fate in doubt

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters after a Republican strategy meeting at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters after a Republican strategy meeting at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON Republicans have blocked action for the third time this year on legislation to bolster voting rights, leaving Democrats few options to advance the bill outside of changing the Senate filibuster rule and passing it over GOP opposition.

All 50 Democrats and independents supported bringing the Freedom to Vote Act to the floor on Wednesday, but all 50 Republicans voted against doing so, maintaining a stalemate over a proposal that Democrats say is needed to counter efforts in Republican-controlled states to impose new restrictions on voting in the aftermath of the 2020 elections.

“These laws will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate in their government,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader. “If there is anything worthy of the Senate’s attention, if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor, it is protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out.”

The tie left Democrats at least 10 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, and there was little evidence that any Republicans could be brought on board. (Schumer switched his vote to “no” at the last moment, enabling him under Senate rules to move to reconsider the bill in the future and putting the official tally at 49-51.)

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, assailed the proposal put forward by Democrats on Wednesday, which was a compromise version of a broader voting rights measure that Republicans had blocked twice before.

“The same rotten core is all still there,” McConnell said of the new legislation. “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.”

The bill would set federal standards for early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday, among other provisions. It would also mandate that voters provide some form of identification before casting a ballot, a requirement that many Democrats had previously resisted, although it would be far less restrictive than similar measures that Republicans have imposed.

The compromise was struck to win the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the sole Democrat to oppose a more expansive voting rights bill passed by the House in August. Manchin has spent weeks trying to win Republican support for the pared-back version but was unsuccessful, giving Democrats hope that he might become more amenable to weakening the filibuster to advance a measure he helped write.

In light of the vote, key Democrats said they would regroup and try again to persuade Manchin and other Senate Democrats reluctant to undermine the filibuster that an overhaul of the chamber’s signature procedural tactic was the only way to protect ballot access around the country.

“We will circle back with all of our colleagues to plead with them to make the changes necessary to pass this bill,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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