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Republicans block a second voting rights bill in the Senate

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Republicans block a second voting rights bill in the Senate

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation to restore parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act weakened by Supreme Court decisions, making it the second major voting bill to be derailed by a GOP filibuster in the past two weeks. Gaya.

Despite receiving majority support, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the civil rights activist and congressman who died last year, required nine of 60 votes to move forward on Republican protests. decreased.

In the aftermath of the defeat, Senate Democrats said they would intensify internal discussions about changing the filibuster rules or making other changes to allow them to move forward on voting rights legislation, despite deep resistance by Republicans who have now decided to adopt such measures. Four attempts to take it have failed. .

“Just because Republicans won’t join us doesn’t mean Democrats will stop fighting,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and majority leader, said after the vote. “We will continue to fight for the right to vote and find an alternative way forward.”

Before the vote, according to a senior Democratic aide, Schumer convened a meeting with moderate Democratic senators to strategize on their next steps on voting rights and “family discussions” to find a way around Republican opposition. How to proceed with Participants included Democratic Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and John Tester of Montana and independent Angus King from Maine. Mr. Schumer has also been consulting with civil rights leaders.

In a statement after Republicans thwarted action on the bill, President Biden called on him to “let there be a debate and let there be a vote.”

The measure, which was blocked on Wednesday, is aimed at reinforcing voting protections against discrimination in the ballot box, which has been struck down by the Supreme Court.

A major goal of the bill is to re-require jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to win prior approval — or “pre-permission” — from the Justice Department or federal courts in Washington before changing their voting rules. The Supreme Court invalidated that requirement in its 2013 decision in Shelby County v. The bill also seeks to strengthen safeguards against discriminatory election practices that were limited by this year’s court decision in Branovich v. Democratic National Committee.

“We’re just not going to work with some of these terrible, drastic measures in Georgia right now,” Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock said. He was referring to his home state, which has seen new voting restrictions imposed by Republicans following his victory in January and President Biden in November. “And so, let’s get it done.”

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Considered the crown jewel of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act has traditionally enjoyed widespread bipartisan support after its enactment in 1965 and was renewed under a succession of Republican presidents, most recently from 98 to 0 in 2006. on the Senate vote. But just one Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined all 50 Democrats in the vote to open debate on a compromise measure, which also has the support of Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who helped negotiate the new version. Of.

“Nothing is more fundamental than the right to vote,” Ms Murkowski said before the vote on Wednesday. He urged lawmakers to iron out differences to try to work out a consensus law that would maintain public confidence in the election process.

“Let’s stop the show vote but give ourselves space to work cooperatively down the aisle,” she said. The measure includes provisions aimed at improving ballot access for Native Americans, a key constituency for Murkowski.

John Lewis’ measure differs from an earlier voting rights measure, the Freedom to Vote Act, which Republicans have failed three times through filibusters, most recently in October. That measure set new voting standards nationwide to counter Republican-led efforts that Democrats regard as attempts to limit voting in minority communities. No Republican supported bringing that measure to the floor.

“The Freedom of Voting Act sets our democracy on fire in this 911 state of emergency,” Warnock said. “The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is about building a fire station for future fires.”

Top Republicans, however, paint both measures as unnecessary and say they represent an attempt by Democrats in Washington to set electoral parameters to their advantage. He argues that the Supreme Court struck down only those parts of the Voting Rights Act which it considered obsolete.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Wednesday that there has been “massive improvement and progress in minority voting power.”

“We have come a long way since 1965,” said Mr Cornyn.

Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and minority leader, said Democrats were trying to give Attorney General Merrick Garland pre-emptive authority over changes to voting law that should be within the purview of state and local governments.

“Americans don’t need Attorney General Garland’s rule over their states and their county elections as much as they need congressional Democrats,” McConnell said. He said the underlying Voting Rights Act remains intact and can be invoked in cases where discrimination is determined.

Democrats were well aware that they were likely to hit a Republican wall on the right to vote again. But part of his calculation has been to demonstrate to Mr Manchin, who has been deeply involved in devising both measures, that Republicans are determined to obstruct the bills, only to change filibuster rules to enforce the measures. is the only way. Mr Manchin has expressed deep objections about the manipulation of Filibuster, which he says promotes bipartisanship.

Top Democrats say they cannot stand and allow minority Republicans to postpone fundamental measures to protect the right to vote. Mr Schumer said that by his opposition, Republicans were supporting voter suppression efforts by those he called “Jim Crow’s successors”.

“At some point, our democracy will have to move along,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and chair of the Rules Committee. “And that’s the discussion we’ll have.”

Washington Senator Patty Murray, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, was more blunt.

“If it means discounting filibuster, then I believe we should do it,” she said. “We cannot stop the Senate process from protecting the right to vote in the United States.”

In his statement, Mr Biden did not mention filibuster, but suggested that voting rights had a special status and protecting them was paramount.

“The right to vote is sacred and constitutional,” he said. “It is fundamental to all other rights. America’s soul is at stake.”

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