Congressional Democrats again failed to expand voting rights on Wednesday afternoon when Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill that would require states to negotiate changes in voting procedures with the Justice Department to ensure equal access to the ballot box.
The John R. Lewis Act to Promote Voting Rights fell short of the 60-vote threshold required to overcome a Republican pirate and end the debate before the bill could be brought into the Senate Hall, where Vice President Kamala Harris was to cast the casting vote. evenly divided chamber. The bad vote was the fourth time that Republicans have blocked a voting rights bill this year.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who co-sponsored the proposal, was the only Republican to vote on the bill.
The bill will require states to obtain approval from the federal court or the Department of Justice before changing practices that could affect voting rights. Lawmakers revised the bill to increase voting access for Native Americans in tribal lands, including Alaska, Murkowski’s home state.
In a statement, Murkowski said she supports the law “because it provides a framework for resolving legal issues related to voting rights.”
“Every American deserves an equal opportunity to participate in our electoral system and political process, and this law is a starting point as we strive for a broader bipartisan consensus on how best to achieve this,” Murkowski said.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) thanked Murkowski for going to the altar and then asked, “Where are the rest of the party? [former president Abraham] Lincoln? “
“This is the lowest point in the history of this body,” Schumer said after the vote failed. “Given the opportunity to debate in what is considered the greatest deliberative body in the world, the Republicans are gone.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican of Kentucky) condemned the Lewis Bill and other unsatisfied voting rights bills as an attempt to micromanage state and local elections.
McConnell said Wednesday in a statement that the country does not need the attorney general to “run their states” and their constituencies any more than Democrats in Congress do it themselves. “
“The Senate will reject this obstruction bill today, just as we rejected all the other fruits from the same poisonous tree,” he said.
After announcing from the rostrum that the House voted 50-49 to end the debate, Harris said reporters that the Democrats will continue to fight for the adoption of the law on voting rights, but did not specify how to do it.
Against the backdrop of the African American-led civil rights movement, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law expanded access to voting and required local governments to obtain federal approval before making changes ahead of elections if they made it difficult for people of color to vote in the past.
Schumer said Wednesday that Republicans and Democrats have voted five times to re-enact the law.
By Order 5-4 of the Supreme Court in 2013, the pre-clearance requirement was canceled.
On behalf of the majority, Chief Justice John J. Roberts, Jr. said that the 1965 law provided equal access to the ballot box and that it was more unfair to test certain jurisdictions based on a 40-year-old formula, and that Congress needed to update the formula to “ meet current conditions. “
“Our country has changed in the last 50 years,” Roberts wrote, adding that states cannot be subject to various federal laws.
Since then, Democrats have tried to introduce new legislation to restore the pre-cleanup. Their efforts intensified after false claims by then President Trump that vote rigging was widespread in the 2020 election and that Biden stole the presidency. The baseless claim led to the deadly attack on the US Capitol. Since then, dozens of state legislatures have passed GOP-backed restrictions that restrict access to voting on the basis of “voting integrity,” despite the absence of any evidence of widespread vote rigging. Experts say these laws will disproportionately affect people of color.
Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a version of the John Lewis Act. A prior authorization clause would give the federal government oversight over the passage of these laws, including a Georgia bill passed in March that allows a Republican-controlled state electoral council to take over the management of local electoral commissions. State Republicans have already begun testing the effectiveness of the electoral council in Fulton County, the Democratic stronghold in the state.
The Voting Rights Bill was named after the late Georgia congressman who was also a civil rights activist in the 1960s.
Last month, all Republicans, including Murkowski, blocked a broader bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, which would create a way to challenge new voting laws in federal court and require additional disclosure of campaign spending and fundraising. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to include provisions that would guarantee GOP support.