Thanks to the filibuster rule, the GOP minority was able to block the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement and the Freedom to Vote Acts.
All 50 Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to block voting rights legislation. Thanks to the filibuster rule, this meant they were able to defeat a pair of bills that would have addressed widespread voter suppression.
The vote came on a motion to end debate on two voting rights bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. The first bill, named after the civil rights icon who died in 2020, would have restored a requirement that states and localities with a recent history of racist voter suppression get pre-approval for any election law changes from the U.S. Department of Justice Department. The second bill would have set a national standard for voting rights protections.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's effort to change Senate rules and move forward with consideration of the two bills despite the GOP filibuster failed, 48-52. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted with every Republican senator to defeat that attempt.
The vote came after a spate of Republican-run states passed new voter suppression laws last year. In the wake of President Joe Biden's 2020 victory, 19 states — 17 of which have a Republican governor, a GOP-controlled legislature, or both — enacted at least 34 new laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
Senate Republicans — even those who had backed voting rights similar protections as recently as 2006 — opposed doing anything to address that suppression. They dishonestly attacked the legislation as "wasting time," not a "real issue," and somehow unconstitutional.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) complained Democrats' efforts to enshrine voting rights were actually a plot to make the GOP look racist.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did his best to prove Graham right on Wednesday night, claiming that voting rights legislation was unnecessary because many Black Americans were able to vote in 2020.
"The concern is misplaced because, if you look at the statistics, African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans," the Kentucky Republican said, seemingly forgetting that Black Americans are also Americans.
Schumer backed both proposals but switched his vote to "no" for procedural reasons, preserving his ability to force a vote to reconsider the legislation in the future.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.