Senate Republicans Block John Lewis Voting Rights Bill

Senate Republicans have once again blocked Democrats’ attempt to pass significant voting rights legislation, this time failing to allow debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The bill failed, 50-49, marking the second time Republicans have filibustered voting rights legislation in the last two weeks, and the fourth time this year.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) changed his vote from a yes to a no so the bill can be considered again later.

“We will continue to fight for voting rights and find an alternative path forward even if it means going at it alone,” Schumer said after the vote.

Named for the late Georgia Congressman and staunch voting rights advocate, the bill aims to restore portions of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, including once again requiring “preclearance” from the Justice Department or federal courts before states and jurisdictions can enact voting restrictions.

That provision of the law was gutted by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Another provision of the bill, which aims to boost protections against discrimination, was limited by the high court’s decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee earlier this year.

The bill was Democrats’ latest attempt to overcome the restrictive voting measures being introduced and enacted in Republican-led statehouses across the country.

“Voting rights are fundamental to our democracy and how we protect them defines us as a nation,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said. Murkowski was the only Republican to vote along with all Democrats to advance the bill.

“Every American deserves equal opportunity to participate in our electoral system and political process, and this bill provides a starting point as we seek broader bipartisan consensus on how best to ensure that,” she added.

The failure of the legislation will only amplify the calls for filibuster reform.

“Today the motion to proceed with a vote John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act failed to pass the Senate on a 50-49 vote,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on Twitter. “It’s time for Senators to figure out a way to work around the filibuster as the obstacle to voting rights legislation.”

“Time for a reality check: Senate Republicans will NEVER vote to protect voting rights,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter. “We have to stop waiting for the fever to break.”

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