Voting Rights Bill Collapses

Manchin, Sinema won't vote to change filibuster rules
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2022 1:18 AM CST
Voting Rights Bill Collapses
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., leaves an elevator at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.   (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

(Newser) – Voting legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders say is vital to protecting democracy collapsed when two senators refused to join their own party in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster after a raw, emotional debate, the AP reports. The outcome Wednesday night was a stinging defeat for President Biden and his party, coming at the tumultuous close to his first year in office. Despite a day of piercing debate and speeches that often carried echoes of an earlier era when the Senate filibuster was deployed by opponents of civil rights legislation, Democrats could not persuade holdout senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia to change the Senate procedures on this one bill and allow a simple majority to advance it.

"I am profoundly disappointed," Biden said in a statement after the vote. However, the president said he is "not deterred” and vowed to “explore every measure and use every tool at our disposal to stand up for democracy.” Voting rights advocates are warning that Republican-led states nationwide are passing laws making it more difficult for Black Americans and others to vote by consolidating polling locations, requiring certain types of identification and ordering other changes. Vice President Kamala Harris briefly presided over the Senate, able to break a tie in the 50-50 Senate if needed, but she left before the final vote. The rules change was rejected 52-48, with Manchin and Sinema joining the Republicans in opposition.

The nighttime voting brought an end, for now, to legislation that has been a top Democratic priority since the party took control of Congress and the White House. “This is a moral moment,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. The Democrats’ bill, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, would make Election Day a national holiday, ensure access to early voting and mail-in ballots—which have become especially popular during the COVID-19 pandemic—and enable the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes. It has passed the House. Both Manchin and Sinema say they support the legislation, but Democrats fell far short of the 60 votes needed to push the bill over the Republican filibuster. (Much more on how the night went here.)

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