The Democrats’ sweeping attempt to rewrite US election and voting law stalled in the Senate on Tuesday, blocked by a wall of Republican opposition to what would have been the largest overhaul of the electoral system in a generation.
The bill, known as the For the People Act, would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, striking down hurdles to voting that advocates view as the Civil Rights fight of the era.
It would also curb the influence of money in politics and limit partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.
But many in the GOP say the measure represents a breathtaking federal infringement on states’ authority to conduct their own elections without fraud — and one meant to ultimately benefit Democrats.
It failed on a 50-50 vote after Republicans, some of whom derided the bill as the “Screw the People Act”, denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the chamber as the bill failed.
“The fight’s not over,” she said later.
The rejection forces Democrats to reckon with what comes next for their top legislative priority in a narrowly divided Senate. They have touted the measure as a powerful counterweight to scores of proposals advancing in GOP-controlled statehouses making it more difficult to vote.
“Once again, the Senate Republican minority has launched a partisan blockade of a pressing issue,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said from the chamber floor. He vowed that the vote was the “starting gun” and not the last time voting rights would be up for debate.
Before the vote, Mr Biden tweeted: “Democrats are united and committed to passing this landmark legislation to protect voting rights, ensure the integrity of our elections and repair and strengthen our democracy.”
Whatever Democrats decide, they will likely be confronted with the same challenge they faced on Tuesday when minority Republicans used the filibuster — the same tool Democrats employed during Donald Trump’s presidency — to block consideration of the bill.
The GOP showed no sign of yielding.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a “a solution looking for a problem” and vowed to “put an end to it”.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, called the bill “a despicable, disingenuous attempt to strip states of their constitutional right to administer elections” that “should never come close to reaching the president’s desk”.