Defeat for Joe Biden as Republicans block voting rights reform Bill


Writing for the Washington Post Tuesday evening, award-winning reporter Peter Stevenson writes that the Democrats are running out of options after the Republicans blocked the debate on the voting rights bill.

Democrats needed all 50 of their own senators and 10 Republicans to vote for the legislation in order for it to advance to allow debate and an amendment process that would shape the eventual Bill.

"The bill itself, which is called the For the People Act, is a product of compromise, an effort by maybe the most conservative Democrat in the Senate or maybe the most conservative Democrat in Congress, Joe Manchin of West Virginia to come up with some common-sense reforms that the majority of Americans agree with, that Democrats and Republicans can agree with", Obama said on a phone call with National Democratic Redistricting Committee volunteers Monday, giving a seal of approval to Manchin's efforts to find a middle ground.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Democrats of a "power grab", and said the legislation would permit them to "take a red pen to election laws in each of the 50 states neutering voting ID laws and ballot harvesting". That's why, according to the Senate leader, there are so many Republican-led states passing more voter laws.

But she emphasized the importance of having a united Democratic front on the issue, nodding at Manchin's proposal and potential vote to proceed.

"On voting rights, on infrastructure and on their other big legislative priorities - including climate change and immigration - Democrats are pushed up against the limits of their razor-thin Senate majority", wrote Stevenson.

During the Senate session, Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote.

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"The fight's not over", she said after the vote.

The president's party argued the almost 900-page proposal was critical to democracy, and would safeguard voting access for black voters.

A growing number of liberals wanted Joe Biden and his administration to try a little harder to promote the legislation, however. "Republicans have shown they can and will shut down bills they see as partisan, using the filibuster".

Despite their best efforts, no Republican was willing to support the bill. But if it becomes received wisdom for those on Mr Biden's left, it could cause growing dissent in a party that will need unity to accomplish anything substantive in the days ahead.

"In the fight for voting rights, this vote was the starting gun, not the finish line", said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). "And we will continue on in every way we can".

But Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, called the legislation a "radical proposal" created to "rig" the rules of American elections permanently in the Democrats' favour.

The For the People Act in its Senate and House versions was arguably too large and complicated a piece of legislation, stitching together a multitude of proposals including disclosure requirement for political contributions, public financing of congressional elections and even an ethics code for the Supreme Court. Democrats themselves used the filibuster to block Republican bills during Mr Trump's presidency. That was an unfair, even outrageous, characterization of the Democrats' proposal, the ambitious For the People Act, not to mention an exercise in projection.