President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are vowing to press forward after Republicans blocked Democrats’ sweeping elections bill, which was largely seen as a symbolic base-rallying gesture designed to show pushback on GOP state election reforms.
In a statement after the upper chamber of Congress failed to bring the For the People Act up for debate, Biden pledged that the fight to expand voting rights was “far from over.”
“The creed ‘We Shall Overcome’ is a longtime mainstay of the civil rights movement,” the president said. “By coming together, Democrats took the next step forward in this continuous struggle — not just on Capitol Hill, but across the country — and a step forward to honor all those who came before us, people of all races and ages, who sacrificed and died to protect this sacred right.”
The commander-in-chief went on to say he intended to talk more about the matter next week before making clear that Democrats were not walking away from the issue for this legislative session.
“I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we are going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again — for the people, for our very democracy.”
Schumer (D-NY) also promised that the issue would be addressed again in the Senate.
“Make no mistake about it, it will not be the last time voting rights comes up for a debate in the Senate,” the top-ranking Dem said. “We have several serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation to combat voter suppression.”
“We are going to explore every last one of our options.”
Republicans unanimously blocked the bill — which they argued represented a breathtaking federal infringement on states’ authority to conduct their own elections without fraud — in a 50-50 vote, denying Democrats the 10 GOP votes they needed to begin debate.
The package was pushed by Democrats earlier this year in an effort to undo some states’ attempts to tighten voting laws following the 2020 election.
The House-passed package aims to “expand access” to the polls, put an end to gerrymandering and set up public funding for congressional races.
It would also require states to offer mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration and a minimum of 15 days of early voting.
While there have been bipartisan concerns over voter ID requirements, the package reverses states’ more stringent voter ID laws for the new federal standards, which allow voting with no ID.
All of these rules, if the package passed, would be at odds with newly established laws.
The bill’s failure is expected to reignite a debate within the Democratic Party over whether to eliminate the filibuster, a move that progressives have heavily advocated.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote.
Still, 51 votes is not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
The failure also forces Democrats to reckon with what comes next for their top legislative priority in a narrowly divided Senate.
They’ve touted the measure as a powerful counterweight to scores of proposals advancing in GOP-controlled statehouses tightening voting rules.
While Biden has vowed what the White House calls the “fight of his presidency” over ensuring Americans’ access to voting, key planks of his agenda, including the voting bill, appear stalled without filibuster changes.
Biden has tapped Harris to run point on the administration’s voting rights efforts.
“Today, I’m asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts, and lead them, among her many other responsibilities,” Biden said during a speech this month in Tulsa, Okla., to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“With her leadership, and your support, we’re gonna overcome again, I promise you,” Biden said of his veep. “But it’s gonna take a hell of a lot of work.”
Harris’ voting reform responsibilities add another critical and highly fraught issue the president has tasked her with.
Along with her appointment as voting rights point person, Harris has been tapped to oversee illegal immigration, and has also been named to lead small business outreach in the coronavirus rescue package.