Senate Republicans yesterday filibustered Democrats’ attempt to move forward with the Freedom to Vote Act, a more narrowly focused voting rights bill that had the backing of every Senate Democrat.
“We’re not deterred, but there’s still a lot of work to do and I think it’s really a sad day,” Vice President Kamala Harris said after the 49-51 vote. “We’re not going to give up. We’ve never given up – those of us who have fought for the right of every American to express their voice through their vote. We’re going to continue to do the work.”
The Freedom to Vote Act includes voter access provisions that would create automatic voter registration, make Election Day a national holiday and establish floors for states on early voting, same-day registration, mail voting and drop boxes. It also focuses on election integrity, establishing cybersecurity standards and protecting election officials from partisan interference. Democrats said the bill is needed to counter new voting restrictions in some GOP-led states.
The legislation is the result of months of negotiations between Schumer, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and seven other Democratic senators. Manchin had been doing outreach to Republican senators but yesterday’s procedural vote failed to win any GOP support. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republican lawmakers see this and other voting rights bills as an attempt by Democrats to federalize the election process.
“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,” McConnell said before yesterday’s vote. “But every time they try this shtick in the Senate, it falls flat. Today will be no exception.”
Republican opposition to voting rights legislation has some Democratic senators ready to support changes to Senate rules to abolish the filibuster or to carve out an exception strictly for voting rights.
“We have to very clearly demonstrate to some of our colleagues that we’ve exhausted every other option,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). “But patience is not eternal. Time is running out.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden has been having “conversations about the path forward” with Democratic lawmakers.