Republicans in the Senate used the upper chamber’s filibuster rule Wednesday to block the Democrat-backed Freedom to Vote Act. The election law is a scaled-down version of the elections deregulation bill that Democrats tried to move through the Senate earlier this year.
All 50 Republicans joined the 51-49 vote to block further debate on the measure, essentially locking it down and preventing a floor vote. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) voted against closing the debate as well. His negative vote was necessary under Senate rules to later move to seek another vote on the bill.
Democrats tout the revised election bill to expand voting rights and ballot access nationwide through uniform federal rules. Republicans contend that election security legislation is reserved for the states by the Constitution.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the proposed law removes local control over election integrity protections like voter ID and hands it over to “the whims of federal bureaucrats.” He added that it would put “Washington in the middle of the states’ redistricting decisions.”
Sen. Angus King (I-ME) has supported the Senate filibuster for ordinary legislation in the past but now suggests that he might support changing the rule to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. He said that when a law affects “the fundamental operation of democracy,” the rule will have to “give way.”
The Biden White House issued a statement saying that the proposed law is “needed to protect the right to vote, ensure the integrity of our elections, and repair and strengthen American democracy.”
The bill includes provisions to make election day a federal holiday and standardize voter ID requirements nationwide. It would also loosen requirements for suing state legislatures over redistricting objections. The law would create a national rule for voting by mail and early voting requirements.
The current version of the bill was created in response to objections by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to earlier drafts of the measure. He disagreed with proposals to remove authority for redistricting from state legislatures to give it to “independent commissions.” The earlier version would have also overridden state voter ID requirements in favor of a uniform federal “sworn voter statement.”