Senate Republicans block Freedom to Vote Act, Democrats’ latest election overhaul bill

Senate Republicans block Freedom to Vote Act, Democrats’ latest election overhaul bill
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Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the advancement of the Freedom to Vote Act, one of three major voting bills brought forward by Democrats in Congress this year.

"Our Republican colleagues may not agree with everything in this bill. Okay, then don't be scared. Don't hide behind your desk. Don't deny us the right to simply debate this bill,” Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a lead sponsor of the legislation, said on the Senate floor before the procedural vote that was expected to fail.

She noted that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the door to Republican amendments on the bill, as long as they were “in line with the goals of the legislation.”

But Republicans saw the bill as Democrats’ latest iteration of their “election takeover scheme,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell described it on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

JOE MANCHIN, CAPTAIN OF THE SENATE

“I’ve just about lost count of how many times our Democratic colleagues have tried to truss up the same takeover with new trappings,” McConnell said. “For multiple years running, Washington Democrats have offered a rotating merry-go-round of rationales to explain why they need to federalize voting laws.”

The bill was blocked in a 49-51 vote along party lines on Wednesday afternoon. Schumer changed his vote to no at the end, in a parliamentary move that will allow him to bring up the legislation for consideration again.

Sweeping election reform has been a top priority for Congressional Democrats for the last several years. It got renewed attention in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump claiming widespread fraud in the 2020 election and Republican-led state legislation across the country seeking to limit pandemic-era voting measures such as automatic mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes, and drive-through voting.

But Democrats have struggled to advance voting reform legislation in the Senate not only because of the filibuster but due to conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia not signing on to the Democrats’ flagship voting rights bill.

The H.R. 1/S. 1 For the People Act proposed drastic changes to the U.S. election system, imposing federal mandates on nearly every aspect of state election administration. Measures in the bill included automatic voter registration, creating a system for publicly financed elections, requiring a mail-in ballot option for any federal election, and allowing felons who completed their sentences to vote. The bill passed the House in March, but in June was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

The Senate’s cloture rule requires 60 votes to advance a bill to debate before a vote on final passage, requiring support from at least 10 Republicans in today’s Senate.

While Manchin voted to advance the For the People Act, he said that he would not support the bill on final passage, saying he was uncomfortable with partisan voting laws.

In response to that, Manchin worked with Senate Democrats to craft an alternative slate of federal voting changes in the Freedom to Vote Act. He is one of seven co-sponsors of the bill.

The Freedom to Vote Act includes a number of provisions borrowed from the For the People Act, with some scaling back. If enacted, it would:

  • Make Election Day a federal holiday.

  • Require states to offer at least two weeks of early voting for at least 10 hours a day in jurisdictions with more than 3,000 voters.

  • Require states to permit no-excuse mail-in voting for every voter, including allowing voters to apply for absentee ballots online.

  • Create a national standard for voter ID in states that have identification laws and define which forms of ID could be used, without mandating that any state implements a voter ID requirement.

Failure of the Freedom to Vote Act, which was expected, prompted renewed calls to create a filibuster carve-out in order to pass voting rights legislation.

“The filibuster has been used dramatically more in recent years than ever before in American history and, by the way, it's not in the Constitution,” independent Maine Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats and is a sponsor of the bill, said on MSNBC on Wednesday.

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King proposed some options to get around the filibuster and a minority party unwilling to haggle over legislation: “Some modification of the rule, whether it's a carve-out whether it's a requirement that those who are opposed have to actually come to the floor and hold the floor.”

In August, the House also passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill to reestablish provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down. It was introduced in the Senate earlier this month, but has no Republican support, and appears destined to be blocked by Republicans again if it comes up in the Senate.

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Tags: News, Congress, Senate, Filibuster, Voting

Original Author: Emily Brooks

Original Location: Senate Republicans block Freedom to Vote Act, Democrats’ latest election overhaul bill

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