By Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a compromise voting rights bill—the Freedom to Vote Act—sparking a deluge of criticism from Democrats and progressive groups who said it was the latest evidence of the need to get rid of, or at least reform, the filibuster.
“Like clockwork, you can always count on Senate Republicans to filibuster any attempt to make our democracy functional,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy for the Indivisible Project, in a statement.
The failed procedural vote had been expected. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the measure, but the motion received just 49; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) changed his vote to no to be able to bring it up for a later vote.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who opposed the more sweeping and twice-GOP-filibustered For the People Act, helped craft the Freedom to Vote Act, which Democrats unveiled last month.
Supporters of the measure say it would provide a much-needed counter to the wave of voter suppression measures in at least 19 states. Among other provisions, the Freedom to Vote Act would ban partisan gerrymandering in congressional redistricting, make Election Day a national holiday, and enact an automatic voter registration system.
According to Stand Up America executive director Christina Harvey, “Manchin has exhausted every possible means of passing this bill on a bipartisan basis, and the American public has patiently waited while he has attempted to win support from an immovable Republican caucus.”
“There is no compromise voting rights bill that will appease Senate Republicans, and today’s filibuster made that clear,” she said. “Senator Manchin tried. It didn’t work. Now, we’re out of time. The only way to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation and safeguard our freedom to vote is to end the Jim Crow filibuster.”
Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn similarly decried the filibuster as a tool “long used to stymie civil rights legislation [that] must not be abused again to defend the new Jim Crow laws being passed across the country to make it harder to vote today—particularly in Black and Brown communities.”
“We appreciate Sen. Manchin’s continued outreach to his colleagues across the aisle,” Hobert Flynn added, “but it has become abundantly clear that no amount of negotiating will get 10 Senate Republicans to support a comprehensive voting rights package by the time we need this to pass. No Senate rule should stand in the way of the freedom to vote, and senators must act with urgency to pass this bill.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also said that action is needed in the face of “Republican-led legislatures chip[ping] away at the bedrock of our democracy.”
“We applaud Senate Democrats who voted for urgently needed solutions to an unprecedented attack on voting rights. But the next step is clear,” she said in a statement. “The Senate must reform, if not end, the archaic filibuster, and pass federal legislation to protect voting rights. It is the only way forward—and inaction is simply not an option.”