Senate Republicans Block Democrats’ Freedom to Vote Act

On Wednesday, October 20, Senate Republicans blocked the progression of the Freedom to Vote Act. The bill represents one of the major voting bills the Democrats proposed this year.

The Democrats believe the bill is vital for future elections in the country. However, Republicans disagree. They saw it as one of the opposition party’s election takeover schemes.

Republicans Filibuster the Freedom to Vote Act

The filibuster is a procedure of the Senate where a senator or group of senators debate a bill for a very long time to make sure the bill doesn’t pass to voting. With this procedure, the minority party in the Senate has a powerful voice to fight the majority party. However, the filibuster can be broken by a supermajority vote of 60 favorable votes.

Republicans chose to go this route on Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Democrats tried multiple times to explain the rationale behind why they want to federalize voting laws. He said this is just one of their many takeover agendas.

The bill was voted on and the result was 50-50. However, Senator Schumer changed his vote to no at the end to ensure the Senate allows him to bring up the bill for consideration later.

The Democrats in Congress made election reform a major priority in the last few years. However, in the wake of the 2020 election, where Donald Trump claimed widespread voting fraud, they decided to renew that intention of having election reforms.

Yet, the filibuster move from the Republicans is not the only reason the Democrats have failed to advance voting reform bills. Another reason is Senator Joe Manchin also refused to sign the party’s flagship voting rights bill in the past.

Content of the Voting Rights Bill

The Democrats’ voting rights bill proposed sweeping changes to the election system in the country. First, it imposes federal mandates on almost all facets of state election administrations.

Some of the measures covered in the bill include mandating mail-in ballot options for all federal elections, creating a system for elections that are publicly financed, allowing released felons to vote, and automatic voter registration.

Although the bill passed the House earlier in March, Republicans in the Senate decided to block it in June. The Senate’s cloture rule was instrumental in stopping the advancement of this bill, as Democrats needed 60 votes for the bill to move forward.

Besides, since Manchin said he wouldn’t support the bill on final passage, it would be difficult to get the required votes. Manchin stated he was not comfortable with voting laws that are partisan.

Instead, he teamed up with Senate Democrats to draft an alternative for the Voting Rights bill.

The changes include:

  • Mandating states to ensure a minimum of two weeks early voting with at least ten hours per day
  • Ensuring Election Day becomes a federal holiday
  • Mandate states to allow no-excuse mail-in voting for all voters.
  • Develop a national voting ID standard

Democrats Want the Filibuster Scrapped

Democrats have called for the end of the filibuster. Senator Angus King, one of the sponsors of the bill, criticized the use of the filibuster. He said the filibuster had been overused in recent years. He also said it is not in the Constitution; thus, it must be scrapped.

Ilhan Omar also claimed the filibuster is killing America’s democracy. However, with progressives calling for the Senate procedure to end, Democrat Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema said they want the procedure to remain.