The Democratic bill, known as the Freedom to Vote Act, would make it easier to register to vote, make Election Day a public holiday, ensure states have early voting for federal elections and allow all voters to request mail-in ballots. The measure would also bolster security on voting systems, overhaul how congressional districts are redrawn and impose new disclosures on donations to outside groups active in political campaigns.
But Republicans have blocked a number of voting rights legislation since Democrats took the House and Senate the past two election cycles.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the bill is similar to previous efforts Republicans blocked, saying it “still subjects popular commonsense election integrity provisions like voter ID to the whims of federal bureaucrats” and “still puts Washington in the middle of states’ redistricting decisions.”
“The latest umpteenth iteration is only a compromise in the sense that the left and the far left argued among themselves about exactly how much power to grab and in which areas,” McConnell said. “As long as Senate Democrats remain fixated on their radical agenda, this body will continue to do the job the Framers assigned it — and stop terrible ideas in their tracks.”
Democrats argued that the bill is a necessity after Republican state legislatures passed laws limiting access to the ballot box following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
“Across the country, the Big Lie — the Big Lie — has spread like a cancer as many states across the nation have passed the most draconian restrictions against voting that we’ve seen in decades,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “If nothing is done, these laws will make it harder for millions of Americans to participate in their government.”
“If there’s anything worthy of the Senate’s attention — if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor — it’s protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out,” he added.
Amid the Republican blockade, Democrats on the left have increasingly called on their party’s senators to gut the Senate’s filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation.
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, a Senate Democratic candidate, said in a statement, “every Democratic Senator who votes in favor of this bill today, but won’t support getting rid of the filibuster, is engaging in performative politics, and is content with the GOP’s complete assault on our democracy.”
But at least two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they are unwilling to change the filibuster rule and are crucial votes for the Biden administration’s economic agenda.
The current White House plan is for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to instead increase their public pressure campaign, highlighting the GOP’s blockade ahead of the 2022 elections.