Senate Republicans have blocked sweeping election reform legislation that Democrats, backed by the White House, paint as crucial to ensuring voting rights but the GOP blast as partisan and power hungry.
The chamber voted 50-50 on advancing the For the People Act, splitting along party lines and failing to obtain the 60 votes needed to pass the proposal.
Republicans took issue with imposing federal standards on state elections that GOP lawmakers said would weaken state ID requirements, also opposing a new public financing system for congressional elections and politicizing the Federal Elections Commission that enforces campaign finance laws.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans won't stand for the attempt to impose new voting standards on states that would "rig" elections in the left's favor. He called the substance of the almost 900-page bill "rotten" to its core.
GOP moderate Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she couldn't support the "partisan federal takeover of the election system." While speaking on the floor, Murkowski said she'd back elements of the bill and will co-sponsor the separate John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but she can't back the "one-size-fits-all" reforms.
The For the People Act legislation had passed the House with little GOP support. Democrats numbered the bill HR 1 to designate it as the party's top legislative priority. But in the Senate, where Democrats control just 50 out of the 100 seats, bipartisanship is necessary to pass anything with the 60-vote threshold in place.
Republicans were prepared to use the legislative filibuster to stop any debate on the For the People Act from proceeding. The vote is the culmination of talks over changing the nation's voting laws in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. The contentious race during the COVID-19 pandemic led to historic levels of mail-in voting as well as widespread claims of massive voter fraud.
Democrats have framed the legislation as an urgent priority to save democracy in the face of GOP efforts to pass "voter suppression laws" at the state level.
To nix or change the legislative filibuster, Democrats would need the support of all 50 of the party's members. Progressives are viewing Tuesday's vote as an initial step to launch an intense pressure campaign over the filibuster.
"Today's vote is just the beginning of the fight. As we've worked for months on this issue, we and allies have assumed Republicans would obstruct," the Progressive Change Campaign Committee wrote to its members. "The next month will be intense as we urge Democrats to reform the filibuster."
Under the guise of lambasting so-called "anti-voter laws" that seek to ensure election security, the Biden administration has been using the Jan. 6 breach to justify federal overhaul despite constitutional clarity on state's rights.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued full-throated support Tuesday for federal voting legislation that would change voting laws in every state, using the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6 as justification for the Biden administration's stance.
At the press briefing ahead of the vote, Psaki emphasized to reporters that the Biden administration's efforts have been "a federal approach that is needed."
"State legislatures across the country are passing a wave of anti-voter laws based on the same repeatedly disproven lies that led to an assault on our nation's capital," Psaki said. "[Republican-held state legislature] are putting these laws in place because [red states] did not like the outcome and they've continued to perpetuate a lie about the outcome of the election. That's why we're here."
She vowed that the Biden administration will continue "to fight to get legislation across the finish line on the federal level." Psaki declared that "the fight is not over" and that "no matter the outcome today, [the fight] is going to continue."
In March after Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed new voting regulations into law, President Joe Biden claimed that the legislation was akin to the segregationist Jim Crow laws that were prevalent in southern America in the mid-20th century.