The Senate failed to advance a major new voting bill on Wednesday, legislation that advocates have sought as a way to protect the right to vote amid new restrictions being put in place in GOP-led states.
The vote was 49-51 to move forward with debate over the bill. All Republicans voted against it. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a filibuster threat.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Republican opposition was an "implicit endorsement" of what he called "election subversion laws" being implemented in states. He compared Republicans to Southern Democrats who refused to allow civil rights legislation to advance during Reconstruction.
Schumer voted with Republicans as a procedural maneuver that allows him to try to move the legislation forward again. He said that as soon as next week, he would attempt to bring another voting rights bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to the floor.
"Members of this body now face a choice—they can follow in the footsteps of our patriotic predecessors in this chamber," he said. "Or they can sit by as the fabric of our democracy unravels before our very eyes."
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote and told reporters afterward, "We're not going to give up. We are not deterred. But there is a lot of work. And I think it is really a sad day."
Progressive groups have seized on Republican intransigence to push for the modification or elimination of the filibuster, especially on an issue of such importance.
The Freedom to Vote Act would establish Election Day as a national holiday, establish early voting and voting by mail standards and expand the disclosure of money in politics.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) had opposed an earlier voting rights bill, and instead worked on a compromise meant to win Republican support. First and foremost is that the latest legislation included a provision for voter ID, a Republican priority.
In a statement, Ben Jealous, the president of People for the American Way, said, "There can be no more excuses for it not to pass, and that means it's time for the White House and Senate Democrats to do whatever it takes to make that happen – or millions of Americans will be robbed of their right to vote in 2022 and beyond."
McConnell has called the legislation "a solution in search of a problem," per Politico, and said on Wednesday, "For multiple years running, Washington Democrats have offered a rotating merry-go-round of rationales to explain why they need to federalize voting laws and take over all of America's elections themselves.
"But every time they try this shtick in the Senate, it falls flat. Today will be no exception."
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states have passed new laws placing new restrictions on voting this year. They followed former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims that the presidential election was stolen from him. His campaign and other backers, however, were turned away in the courts more than 60 times as they challenged the results.
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