CHN: Senate Republicans Block Voting Rights Bill – Again

Republican Senators on Nov. 3 blocked the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), a bill that would have restored key provisions stripped from the Voting Rights Act and prevented barriers to the ballot box for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, young, and new Americans. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a procedural hurdle that would have allowed Senators to debate the bill on the floor, but Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican to join all 50 Democrats and Independents in voting to advance the measure. The House passed the bill on Aug. 24 along party lines.

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement, “Anti-voter senators have yet again attacked the most basic principle of our democracy — equal access to the ballot. By refusing to ensure that we are able to vote freely, they are denying us the right to shape our communities and make decisions for how to tackle the pandemic, access affordable health care, or provide for our families.” CHN joined the Leadership Conference and more than 130 other organizations in urging senators to support the bill.

The vote came two weeks after Senate Republicans blocked the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747), which would have set national standards for early voting and voting by mail, set standards for states that require voter identification, end partisan gerrymandering, limit the influence of dark money so that billionaires can’t buy elections, and make Election Day a national holiday. Not a single Republican supported advancing the measure. It was scaled back from the House-passed For the People Act, which was opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), to try to gain his support and that of Republicans.

The bills are in part a response to Republican state legislatures that have this year enacted multiple bills to restrict access to voting, disproportionately affecting people of color, and making it easier to challenge election results.

Some advocates have supported abolishing the filibuster or reforming it to allow certain bills, like voting rights legislation, to pass with only a simple majority instead of the 60-vote supermajority required for most legislation. But Sen. Manchin has repeatedly said he opposes changes to filibuster rules. It would take 50 votes plus Vice President Harris’s tie-breaker to modify the filibuster; with no anticipated Republican support, the loss of one Democratic or Independent senator would sink the effort.