Republicans block Democrats' sweeping voting rights bill

By Maureen Chowdhury, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 11:53 a.m. ET, July 13, 2021
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7:45 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Schumer declines to weigh in on how Democrats will tackle voting rights after today's expected failed vote

From Ali Zaslav, Ryan Nobles and Manu Raju 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday declined to weigh in on how Democrats will tackle voting rights after tonight’s vote to open debate on the legislation, which is expected to fail.

“Look, we will have the vote, and then we will discuss our future,” Schumer said. Adding: “Once that vote happens, we will discuss the future, not today, not now.”

CNN’s Manu Raju asked in the wake of two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, making very clear they will not gut the legislative filibuster, whether he can say that Democrats will not touch the 60 vote threshold this Congress.

Schumer again dodged, replying: “We are not going to put the cart before the horse. We are going to have the vote then we will discuss the future.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Rules Committee, at the weekly policy news conference laid out more details on the voting rights legislation agreement made with Manchin. She said it includes things like same-day registration and allowing people to be automatically registered when they apply for a driver’s license, among others.

7:45 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Manchin will vote yes to begin debate on election overhaul bill, Schumer says

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav 

Tasos Katopodis/Pool/Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis/Pool/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he and Sen. Joe Manchin have reached an agreement, and Manchin will vote yes to open debate on the election overhaul bill.

Schumer says that he’s agreed to give Manchin’s proposal a vote as an amendment.

“He came to my office about two hours ago, and we worked it out,” Schumer said. “Senator Manchin has informed me that he will vote yes on the motion to proceed to debate the legislation. I have committed to him that if our Republican colleagues don't obstruct and allow us to move forward on the debate will take up his proposed substitute amendment as the first amendment we will consider.”

In a statement released by Manchin's office, the senator confirmed he will vote in favor of opening debate on the bill.

"Over the past month, I have worked to eliminate the far reaching provisions of S.1, the For the People Act – which I do not support. I’ve found common ground with my Democratic colleagues on a new version of the bill that ensures our elections are fair, accessible and secure. Today I will vote ‘YES’ to move to debate this updated voting legislation as a substitute amendment to ensure every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot and participate in our great democracy," the statement read.

Manchin’s yes vote means Democrats will be united, and will get 50 votes on the measure. 

But Republicans are also united, meaning the Democrats won’t get the 60 votes needed to even begin debate. 

Watch here:

7:44 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Obama invokes Jan. 6 insurrection in advocating for support of the For the People Act

From CNN's Dan Merica

People storm the Capitol building on January 6, in Washington, DC.
People storm the Capitol building on January 6, in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama invoked the Jan, 6 insurrection at the Capitol on Monday to advocate for the For the People Act, the voting rights bill that is set to face its first Senate procedural vote today.

Obama, during a grassroots conference call for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said that the insurrection proved Americans cannot “take our democracy for granted,” arguing the United States could become one of the many countries around the world that were “once vibrant democracies” but who went in “reverse” because anti-democratic decisions. 

“The violence that occurred in the US Capitol on January 6, just a few months ago, should remind us that we can’t take our democracy for granted. Around the world, we have seen once vibrant democracies go into reverse, locking in power for a small group of powerful autocrats and business interests and locking out of the political process dissidents and protestors and opposition parties and the voices of ordinary people. It is happening in other places around the world and these impulses have crept into the United States. We are not immune from some of these efforts to weaken our democracy," Obama said.

The former president went on to say that “our own history” should remind Americans about the importance of fighting for democracy, adding that recent attempts to pass restrictive voting laws mean “we are going to have to be vigilant in fighting back attempts by the few to silence the many. And that is why what is happening in the Senate is so important.”

Obama opened the call by noting that since he left office in 2017, he has tried to “not to weigh in on the day to day scrum in Washington.” But that the vote set to take place this week “is more than just a particular bill coming up or not coming up to a vote,” calling the For The People Act a “product of compromise.”

Obama specifically invoked West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s name when he spoke about compromise, calling the bill a group of “common sense reforms” that most Americans agree on.

Obama made clear that the bill being considered doesn’t have “everything I would like to see” in a voting rights package, but said it is an important step to ensuring the future elections are fair. The former President, who was joined by former Attorney General Eric Holder on the call, slammed Republicans for planning to use the filibuster to stop consideration of the measure. 

“Right now at least, Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the For the People Act from even being debated,” Obama said.

“Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line, and many of these same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimately in our most recent election. They are suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions on the floor of the Senate. They don’t even want to talk about voting. And that is not acceptable," he said.

2:25 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

White House says it "strongly supports" passage of Senate Democrats' voting legislation

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

The White House has released a statement of administration policy in support of the For the People Act, writing it “strongly supports” its passage in the Senate, just as it supported HR1 in the House.

“Democracy is in peril, here, in America. The right to vote – a sacred right in this country – is under assault with an intensity and an aggressiveness we have not seen in a long time,” the statement form the Office of Management and Budget says in part.

“This landmark legislation is needed to protect the right to vote, ensure the integrity of our elections, and repair and strengthen American democracy,” it continues.

Read more of the White House statement:

“Since H.R. 1 passed in the House of Representatives, the assault on our democracy has intensified. In state after state, new restrictive laws on voting, and efforts to replace non-partisan election administration with partisan processes designed to overturn the will of the voters have become more widespread. The Administration applauds the efforts in the Senate to incorporate feedback that refines and strengthens the bill, and would make its reforms easier for states to implement. As the bill moves forward, the Administration will continue to work with Congress to ensure that it achieves lasting reform consistent with Congress’ broad constitutional authority to strengthen our democracy.”

2:19 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Election reform expert: Our democracy has major problems and this bill contains solutions

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

The so-called For the People Act contains solutions to pressing problems the United States' democracy is facing, Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Election Reform program told CNN's Ana Cabrera.

"The most important thing that this bill does is it creates a baseline access to the voting booth for all Americans. And it does so in a way that I have to tell you will benefit Democrats, Republicans, independents," Weiner explained ahead of today's Senate procedural vote on the measure.

"A lot of the policies in HR-1 were pioneered by Republicans at the state level. So, it does that. It bans extreme partisan gerrymandering and it just contains some common sense reform for the campaign finance system that have been long overdue since Citizens United," Weiner said.

Weiner noted how the bill is the only piece of legislation that can reverse a number of voter restriction laws passed in states across country, like in Georgia and Florida.

"In many, many instances the worst of those bills, it would reverse those laws. And this is the only bill pending that can do that. That is what is so important. And, again, this is a baseline standard of voting access for all Americans. Everyone. Republican, Democrat, it doesn't matter your political affiliation. But that is critical right now. And that is what this bill would do and what is at stake," he said.

7:43 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Harris declines to respond to voting legislation questions during Senate visit

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Vice President Kamala Harris, who came to the Senate to cast a tie-breaking vote to advance a nominee, declined to respond to questions about the filibuster and what’s next for her plans to advance a bill to rewrite election laws. 

Earlier this month, President Biden announced Harris would lead his administration's efforts on voting rights. The new role came as the Biden administration condemned efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to pass restrictive laws the White House says make it harder for Americans to vote.

More on today's Senate vote: Democrats have set up a key test vote at 5:30 p.m. ET on their election bill, but Republicans have united against it, decrying it as a partisan power grab and a federal overreach into state voting and election systems.

It would need 60 votes to succeed, a threshold it is not expected to meet. Democrats have also faced pushback over the legislation from a member of their own caucus: pivotal swing vote Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

CNN's Clare Foran, Jasmine Wright and Lauren Fox contributed reporting to this post. 

3:21 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

White House rejects criticism that Biden should be more vocal on voting rights

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to the criticism that President Biden should be more vocal on passing voting rights legislation, saying “those words are a fight against the wrong opponent.”

CNN’s Phil Mattingly asked Psaki to respond to progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman who said this morning on CNN’s New Day that while Biden wasn’t absent in the push to pass the sweeping elections bill, he “needs to be a lot more vocal and a lot more out front.”

Psaki said the White House will put out a statement after the 5:30 p.m. ET procedural vote in the Senate on the For the People Act that is expected to fail

“He's absolutely revolted by the wave of anti-voter laws based on the same repeatedly disproven lies that led to … an assault on our nation's capital, as I know for Congressman and many others are as well. We share their passion, we share the desire to fight these efforts, we share the desire to fight against efforts by many Republicans to suppress the vote around the country,” Psaki said. “It doesn't mean that that fight will always be easy, but he is going to stand by them in this effort.”

Psaki defended Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ engagement on the voting rights bill, saying he’s held private phone calls, private meetings like the one yesterday with Sen. Joe Manchin, executive orders in addition to his speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and nominated Justice Department officials who will advocate for the right to vote.

“I would say that's hardly being silent. That's hardly sitting on the back bench, and we are-- he will be standing with advocates in this fight for the foreseeable future,” Psaki said. 

Psaki also previewed both the President and vice president’s actions on voting rights if the bill fails.

“What the President and what the vice president will do is engage with voting rights groups, engage with legislators who are supportive of expanding access to voting around the country. Yes, there are even in red states there are many Democratic legislators or legislators who want to expand that access, empower them work with them, support them in these efforts, and continue to fight to get legislation across the finish line on the federal level,” Psaki said. “So, this fight is not over. No matter the outcome today, it’s going to continue.”

Asked separately where President Biden is today and why he isn’t using his time to speak out on the issue ahead of the vote, Psaki defended his past remarks on voting and said we will “hear him speak about this again.”

7:42 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Sen. Manchin says intraparty talks over voting bill "very delicate"

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said intraparty talks over changes to voting legislation are “really delicate” in the hours before a key test vote on the issue when Democrats hope those modifications will win Manchin’s support and he will join the other 49 members of his caucus to advance the bill.

One key sticking point is requiring voters to present identifications when they show up to vote. Manchin and most Republicans support that idea while most Democratic senators oppose it, concerned it could depress voting by poor and minority voters.  

“There are some senators that don’t have ID’s (in their states) that are concerned. I understand those concerns. But I just think it’s about basically for the security of the ballots you need IDs,” Manchin told CNN. “I can’t speculate about what’s going to happen. I just know you need IDs.”

A few minutes before Manchin spoke, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee and leading talks over the bill with Manchin, pushed back on his desire to include voter ID requirements.

“Remember the rest of our caucus have views too,” she told reporters.

Manchin responded, “They’re working on that. That’s all I can tell you,” he said. “Everything is just really delicate.”

1:54 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Democratic whip says he has no idea how Sen. Manchin will vote tonight

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin told reporters earlier today that he hadn't talked to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin this morning and doesn’t know how he will vote this evening. 

“He has not spoken to me, I don’t know how he’s going to vote,” Durbin said.

All eyes are on Manchin and whether he will vote with his colleagues to advance an amended version of the For the People Act. 

The measure passed the Democratic-controlled House earlier this year, but it's mired in the Senate, where it lacks Manchin's support unless modifications are made and faces a wall of resistance from Republicans.

Durbin told reporters that while Democratic “unity is very important, we also respect one another.”