voting reform
An aide carries a sign to the Senate floor as the Senate prepares for a key test vote on the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that would overhaul the election system and voting rights. (Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock)

Senate Republicans Block ‘For the People Act’ Voter Reform Bill and Effectively Preserve Racist Voting Restrictions

Conservative lawmakers from Georgia to Florida to Texas continue to pass highly restrictive and racist election reform laws designed to keep Democrats and people of color from voting, and the Senate appears powerless — at least for now — to stop their Jim Crow-era antics. The latest blow to the Democratic party? In a major showing of just how reluctant the right appears to be toward bipartisan work that is ultimately good for all voters’ rights in the United States, regardless of political affiliation, all 50 of the country’s Republican Senators refused to let the sweeping voter reform bill called the ‘For the People Act’ even come up for discussion or debate on the Senate floor.

Brian Slodysko, Christina A. Cassidy and Lisa Mascaro of the Associated Press reported that the bill, which would be the largest overhaul of the electoral system in a generation, was filibustered by a “wall of Republican opposition.”

“The vote leaves the Democrats with no clear path forward, though President Joe Biden declared, ‘This fight is far from over,’” AP reported.

According to AP reporters, if approved, the vast and expansive Democratic voter reform bill “would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, striking down hurdles to voting that advocates view as the Civil Rights fight of the era, while also curbing the influence of money in politics and limiting partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.”

For his part, President Biden praised Senate Democrats for coming together to help defend the nation “against the ongoing assault of voter suppression that represents a Jim Crow era in the 21st Century.” He also promised to continue doing everything he could to help get the voting reform bill passed.

Even with the Republican’s no-vote in place, many Senators believe the fight to pass the “For the People Act” is far from over.

“Once again, the Senate Republican minority has launched a partisan blockade of a pressing issue,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, following the disappointing vote. He later vowed that this was just the beginning of the discussion for the bill and that he would do everything in his power to get it on the floor for an official vote.

“What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to preserve minority rights in the society,” added Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Georgia Democrat and senior pastor at the Atlanta church Martin Luther King Jr. once led.

Sadly, despite intense efforts from many Democratic leaders, the possibility of getting any Republican Senators to vote for the bill — let alone the 10 votes needed to eliminate the potential for another filibuster — seems unlikely at best.

Whether it’s pure racism, their own political agendas or simply a desire to maintain power at any cost, most Republicans seem committed to preventing the bill from coming up for an official vote, claiming among other falsehoods, that it “strips away” state’s rights to conduct their elections as they see fit. 

According to the AP, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the For the People Act “a solution looking for a problem” and vowed to “put an end to it.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz labeled it purely “partisan legislation, written by elected Democrats, designed to keep elected Democrats in office.” And Sen. Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia called the bill “a despicable, disingenuous attempt to strip states of their constitutional right to administer elections” that “should never come close to reaching the president’s desk.”

Even a stripped-down, more conservative-friendly version of the Democrat’s voter reform act created by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has also failed to gain traction so far, with McConnell dismissing it as “equally unacceptable.”

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