US Senate Republicans again block voting legislation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the second time in a month, Republicans in the U.S. Senate have blocked voting-related legislation.

The Senate voted 50-49 on Wednesday to advance the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is named after the late Georgia congressman and civil rights advocate. Sixty senators had to support opening debate for the measure to move forward; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican to vote in favor of such action.

Senate Republicans in October blocked the Freedom to Vote Act, a sweeping bill with provisions on automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and early voting in federal elections.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and restore the ability of the Justice Department and the District Court for the District of Columbia to review voting law changes by governments cited for creating obstacles to voting. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down this authority, ruling the formula was outdated and needed revisions.

The Senate had previously supported an extension of this authority; the chamber voted 98-0 in 2006 to extend the law for another 25 years.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted to begin debate; Democratic leaders on Tuesday announced Manchin’s support for the bill as part of a “bipartisan compromise” with Murkowski related to what courts should consider during an analysis.

“Ensuring our elections are fair, accessible and secure is essential to restoring the American people’s faith in our Democracy. That’s why my colleagues and I have come together to introduce the bipartisan John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” Manchin said.

“In the weeks and months ahead, I am committed to building support for this bipartisan compromise that addresses the threats to voting rights across our nation without infringing on states’ rights so that it can move through regular order with bipartisan support, just as it has done for the last 56 year.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., opposed moving forward with the legislation. Capito did support the 2006 reauthorization bill when she was a member of the House of Representatives, something she noted in a statement following Wednesday’s vote.

“I am unequivocally opposed to discrimination, however, today’s vote was on an election bill designed to appease the Democratic base, federalize our elections, and fix problems that don’t exist,” she said. “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 remains the law of the land, and clearly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, protecting equal access to voting for all Americans. That is why I voted in 2006 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years, and why I voted against the wholly unnecessary messaging legislation that was brought up today.”

Congressional Democrats have pushed elections measures this year in response to Republican-led state legislatures passing laws that critics say restrict access for poor and minority voters. State lawmakers have taken up this legislation as former President Donald Trump maintains false claims of voter fraud affecting the 2020 election results.

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