Senate Republicans block Democrats’ federal voting bill

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Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock's floor speech on June 22, 2021, ahead of the Senate vote on whether to proceed to debate on the For the People Act.

Warnock, Ossoff vote in favor of moving For the People Act forward

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans took advantage of filibuster rules Tuesday to block sweeping federal election and voting legislation backed by Democrats.

The procedural vote that would have allowed the measure, known as the For the People Act, to move forward with debate failed 50-50 because it did not reach the 60-vote threshold. All 50 members of the Democratic caucus were in favor, all 50 Republicans were opposed. The outcome was expected.

Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday morning said the bill was necessary and worth discussing. The Atlanta Democrat said inaction “would have long-lasting and far-reaching implications for the health, viability and vitality of the world’s greatest democracy.”

He also decried Republican opposition to the legislation, saying the filibuster was being used to block conversation even as states like Georgia pass new laws to make casting ballots more difficult.

“Right now across the nation, constitutional rights are being assaulted,” Warnock said. “And I fear if we don’t act as a body in this moment, we will have crossed a dangerous Rubicon in our nation that will make it extremely difficult for the next generation to secure voting rights for every eligible American.”

Immediately after the vote, the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm announced it would begin airing ads attacking Warnock’s support of the bill and urging conservatives to donate money to defeat him in 2022.

Among the many provisions in the wide-ranging federal election law are new standards for early voting and automatic voter registration, campaign finance transparency rules, limits to partisan gerrymandering and ethics guidelines for federal lawmakers.

With the legislation now stalled, Senate Rules Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar has scheduled a series of hearings across the nation on the proposal.

“We are taking it on the road; the first time in a long time,” the Minnesota Democrat said. “We are going to Georgia and holding a field hearing there so we can hear first-hand from people in the state and why we must carry out the constitutional duty in this chamber to act.”

The legislation already passed narrowly in the House, but it has now stalled indefinitely in the Senate.

GOP Leader Mitch McConnell had long criticized the version approved in the House, and last week announced that he would not work with Senate Democrats on a compromise. McConnell accused bill proponents of misconstruing election laws in Georgia and other states to justify a federal proposal he described as unnecessary.

“The biggest lie being told in American politics in recent weeks has been that the states are involved in a systematic effort to suppress the vote,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday.

After the failed vote, Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff said he will continue fighting to get a federal election bill passed.

“Congress must pass voting rights legislation to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act and to protect American voters from partisan voter suppression,” he said, adding that he will continue to work closely with colleagues “to advance legislation that will safeguard the sacred franchise.”

Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote Tuesday. Afterward, she said they will continue to push for passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that would reinstate federal review of changes to state voting laws.

“The fight is not over,” she said.

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