(The Center Square) – U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday used a filibuster to block debate on a Democrat-led elections bill.
The controversial bill, titled the “For the People Act,” would have federalized several aspects of elections, including making procedures such as mail-in voting and same-day voter registration for federal elections available nationwide. The bill also sought to take away the power of state governments to determine their congressional redistricting and give that power to independent commissions.
A vote to move the measure forward to debate had the support of all 50 Democratic senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who decided just on Tuesday that he would join his party's colleagues. But no Republicans supported the bill, which needed 60 votes to prevent a filibuster.
Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., previously expressed hesitancy over supporting the bill. Both senators have also stated repeatedly they would be opposed to getting rid of the filibuster, which would allow a bill to pass through the Senate with a simple majority instead of the current 60-vote threshold.
Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Manchin’s support for the bill in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“I'm pleased to report that Senator Manchin and I have come to an agreement,” Schumer said. “He came to my office about two hours ago and we worked it out.”
Schumer had negotiated amendments to S.1 with Manchin in exchange for his support of the bill. Manchin expressed confidence in the amendments, such as provisions for voter identification.
“Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues refused to allow debate of this legislation despite the reasonable changes made to focus the bill on the core issues facing our democracy,” Manchin said.
Republicans and conservative groups blasted the bill, and its House counterpart HR.1, as an attempt to take away the rights of local governments to determine their election procedures. Despite amendments proposed by Manchin, Republicans and conservative groups remain strongly opposed to the bill.
In a press release opposing the bill, Heritage Action for America attacked the overreach of the federal government with the proposed provisions in the act.
“This massive bill is filled with unconstitutional policies that would make our elections less secure, hijack America’s election processes, and destroy Americans’ faith in voting,” said Jessica Anderson, Executive Director of Heritage Action.
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed his opposition to the revised version of the “For the People Act” with amendments by Manchin.
“We’re talking about fundamentally the same bill,” McConnell said. “And one thing’s for certain: ‘major overhaul’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. The same awful guts are all in there: There’s the plan to forcibly rewrite large portions of the 50 states’ respective election laws.”
The White House supports he bill and has said it will not back down from the fight over voting laws.
“This fight is not over, no matter the outcome,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary at a press briefing Tuesday.