By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Senate Republicans have again blocked a Democratic-led push for voter rights, with each of the 50 GOP members voting to block legislation that would help override some of the oppressive laws that have passed in several states as a result of the 2020 election.
“This bill is a compromise, but a good one. It’s a bill that every Senate Democrat is united behind enthusiastically,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded.
President Joe Biden called the right to vote fundamental.
“To vote freely, to vote fairly, and to have your vote counted is fundamental. It should be simple and straightforward,” the President stated.
Before the vote, organizations like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter of support to Senators on the Freedom to Vote Act.
Following the vote, Wade Henderson, the interim President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, expressed disappointment.
“It is absolutely critical that our nation has transparent elections process we can trust, where all Americans have equal freedom to vote, no matter our color, background, or zip code,” Henderson stated.
“By preventing this bill from moving forward to a full floor debate, Senate Republicans have blocked access to our most sacred and fundamental right in a democracy — the right to cast our ballots freely, safely, and equally. Our voices and calls for federal legislation that will help realize the promise of our democracy will not be silenced. The American people cannot wait any longer.”
In the 50-50 Senate, each Democrat and Independent supported the Freedom to Vote Act, but all 50 Republicans voted against the measure.
At least 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster.
Sen. Schumer changed his vote to “no” when he realized the measure wouldn’t pass. That procedural move allows him to move for the bill’s reconsideration later.
The Freedom to Vote Act would establish federal standards for early and mail-in voting and make Election Day a national holiday.
It blunts the oppressive laws passed in states like Texas and Florida.
A compromise to the measure included mandating that voters provide some form of identification before casting a ballot, but in a far restrictive manner than that imposed by Republicans.
Many now are calling on the Biden-Harris administration and Congressional Democrats to find ways around Republican opposition and the filibuster.
“Protecting our democracy is patriotic, not partisan. But today, Senate Republicans chose to stand against our democracy and embolden the forces working to limit voting rights, interfere with vote counting and even manipulate the outcome of elections. Their inaction sends the message that it’s OK to pick and choose who can vote and whose votes can be counted,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.
“But in a true democracy, we get to pick the people who represent us – they don’t get to pick the voters. Our responsibility as citizens is not just to vote but to stand up for the very representative systems on which our republic was founded,” Weingarten insisted.
“That means ensuring everyone eligible can vote and every vote is counted. The procedures of a democratic institution should help preserve, not undermine, the principles of our democracy.”
“Now, Senate Democrats and the Biden administration must do whatever it takes to pass this bill. The freedom to vote is too important for politics and loopholes to stand in the way. History is watching.”
LaShawn Warren, Chief Policy Officer for the SPLC Action Fund, said the Freedom to Vote Act represents a critical step in repairing American democracy and ensuring that citizens can participate in the political process.
“With state legislatures erecting new barriers to voting that perpetuate a false narrative about last year’s elections, the need for the Freedom to Vote Act couldn’t be clearer or more urgent,” Warren wrote in a statement.
“The bills’ provisions enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support from two-thirds of the American public because they would make voting easier, elections more transparent, and representation more equitable and fairer.
“Today re-emphasizes what was clear earlier this year when 35 senators used the same legislative loophole to prevent debate of a bill to create a bipartisan January 6 investigation committee. Strengthening our democracy, preventing political violence, and making elections accessible to all Americans can’t be subject to the whims of a minority of senators in Washington playing political games.
“Defenders of democracy, as President Biden urged this summer, must rise to this moment and take the necessary steps within Congress and across the country to fight for an American political system that meets our national ideals.”
Biden-Harris Administration Congressional Democrats democracy Democrats filibuster Freedom to Vote Act oppressive laws President Joe Biden procedural Randi Weingarten Republicans voter suppression Wade Henderson