January 21, 2022

Historic Voting Rights Legislation, Filibuster Reform Fail to Pass in the U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate had the power on Wednesday to protect the right to vote by passing the “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.” However, the historic measure failed on a 50-50 Senate vote, since 60 votes were needed for it to pass. No Republicans voted for it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” for procedural reasons, making the official tally for cutting off debate 51-49 against – 11 votes short of the needed 60.

Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) then blocked the Democrats’ attempt to reform the filibuster rule, which would have allowed them to pass the voting rights legislation by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than 60. The filibuster reform vote failed 52-48.

Passing the voting rights measure would have restored key protections of the Voting Rights Act, strengthened vote-by-mail, expanded automatic voter registration and same day registration, protected voters and election workers from intimidation, and also preserved the nation’s democracy in other ways.

Nineteen state legislatures passed 34 laws aimed at suppressing the vote in 2021, making national legislation crucial.

“Seniors realize the seriousness of this situation,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Retirees in particular have worked long and hard to preserve the fundamental right to vote. They were there for the battle for civil rights in the 1960s and they are here for this fight in 2022. This struggle is about racial justice, justice for seniors, and more.”

“If ever there were a time to sideline the filibuster and preserve our democracy, this was it,” Fiesta added.

President Biden and House Democratic leadership have vowed to keep fighting to pass voting rights protections. A bipartisan group of senators have already begun talks to update the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to clarify the role the vice president and Congress play in certifying presidential elections. The bipartisan Senate discussions, which would offer protections not as comprehensive as those that failed, are still in their early stages but are expected to gain steam after the broader elections and voting reforms failed.

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