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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3:17 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

McConnell says GOP will block voting legislation and calls bill a "partisan power grab" by Democrats

From CNN's Ted Barrett 

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

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out against the Democrats’ voting legislation that faces a key test vote at 5:30 p.m. ET today. He described it as a “transparent plan to tilt every election in America permanently in their favor,” saying that it would let Democrats "take a red pen to election laws in each of the 50 states neutering voting ID laws and ballot harvesting."

He pointed to the many Democrats who advocate weakening the filibuster so they can approve the bill on the “slimmest possible margins,” which he argued would be a mistake because elections laws should be approved on a bipartisan basis.  

“These issues would be the worst possible place to push through a power grab at any cost,” he said. 

McConnell vowed to use the power of the filibuster the way the Founders envisioned it.  

“The Senate is only an obstacle when the policy is flawed and the process is rotten. And that’s exactly why this body exists. Today, the Senate’s going to fulfill our founding purpose, stop the partisan power grab and reflect S-1,” he said.

Read more about today's vote here.

2:43 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Co-sponsor of election reform bill signals support for Manchin's plan

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Sen. Michael Bennett speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on May 12, in Washington, DC. 
Sen. Michael Bennett speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on May 12, in Washington, DC.  Pete Marovich/Pool/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, co-sponsor of the For the People Act, signaled that he would support Sen. Joe Manchin's modified proposal on election reform, if it meant unanimous support from Democrats for a plan.

"I think any plan that would give us those 50 votes tomorrow, 50 plus one with the vice president, would be an important signal to send to the American people," Bennet told CNN's Jake Tapper on Monday.

Bennet added that he thinks it's important for people to know what's in this bill.

"What's there are voting reforms that we passed long ago in Colorado, that is one of the reasons why Colorado has the second highest voter participation rate in the country. So this bill is about getting more people to vote, not fewer people to vote. And I wish we could get some Republicans to actually pass it," he said.

Manchin's proposal includes a voter ID requirement, which Bennet said he would be in favor of if it was "drafted broadly."

Bennet also said that while he would like for a bipartisan plan to pass, he does not think it's "realistic in Mitch McConnell's Senate."

"I still don't see in Mitch McConnell's Republican Senate the opportunity to be able to work in a meaningful way, to reform, to protect Americans' right to vote. I regret that deeply," Bennet said.

Read more about the measures here.

7:40 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Schumer excoriates Trump and GOP-led state legislatures ahead of key test vote on voting rights legislation

From CNN's Ali Zaslav 

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave a passionate speech on the Senate floor Monday on the significance of voting rights ahead of today's “crucial vote” on major legislation to ���protect Americans voting rights,” which he argued “are under assault from one end of the country to the other.” 

"It's not a vote on any particular policy. It’s not a vote on this bill or that bill. It's vote on whether the Senate should simply debate the issue about voting rights,” he said in floor remarks ahead of Tuesday’s key test vote on the sweeping elections overhaul bill.

The procedural vote is to open debate and advance the legislation toward a final vote. It would need 60 votes to succeed, a threshold it is expected to fall short of.

Schumer excoriated former President Donald Trump for pushing the "Big Lie," and the GOP-led state legislatures efforts to tighten voting restrictions that followed.

“Donald Trump lied over and over and over again, poisoning our democracy, lighting a fire beneath Republican state legislatures who immediately launched the most sweeping voter suppression effort in at least 80 years,” he said. “Just a note, how despicable a man is Donald Trump?! He lost an election legitimately, he can't face that, that it was his failure. And he creates a lie, a Big Lie.”

Schumer asked in his remarks whether his GOP colleagues are “afraid” to debate this measure. “Will our Republicans let us debate it?” he asked. “That’s the only question on the table for the United States Senate tomorrow.”

“Are you afraid to debate it,” Schumer asked, speaking of his Republican colleagues. “Do you not have any good arguments? Let's dispense with this nonsense. There is no real principle behind these policies. They're not about election integrity, they're not about voter fraud. These policies have one purpose and one purpose only: making it harder for younger, poorer, nonwhite, and typically Democratic voters.. to access the ballot. To give Republicans a partisan advantage at the polls by making it harder for Democratic leaning voters to vote. You lose an election, you're not supposed to stop people from voting, even if they didn't vote for you. That's not Democracy, my Republican friends.” 

Schumer highlighted a NYT article from over the weekend, which “reported that at least 10 members of county election boards in Georgia have been removed or about to be removed in the wake of the new law passed by the GOP legislature.”

The New York Democrat implored his GOP senate colleagues to “read it.” "Can you read this article and still believe what Republican legislatures are doing is on the level... It makes you want to weep, what they're doing," he said. He placed the article in the record.

Read more about today's Senate vote here.

7:37 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Test vote for voting legislation set for later today

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Manu Raju 

The Senate will cast a key test vote on voting legislation Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday.

The vote is on whether to begin debate on the bill. Sixty votes are needed for the bill to advance, but it’s not expected bit to get close to that because all 50 Republicans oppose it.

Instead, Democrats are working to agree on a new proposal to win over Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia so all 50 Democrats will vote in favor of advancing the bill.

12:01 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Democrats aim to woo Manchin on major voting bill in bid to win unified party support

From CNN's Alex Rogers and Manu Raju

Senate Democrats have been engaged in a quiet courtship of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in an effort to garner unified party support for a sweeping elections overhaul bill despite the long odds that enough Republicans will ever back its passage.

The hope, Democrats say, is to create a clear contrast with Republicans over the issue of voting access in America, with party leaders fearing that a Manchin defection would undercut their political argument over an issue central to their agenda.

Behind the scenes, conversations picked up steam in recent days to win over Manchin, their lone holdout, who has faced withering criticism from the left over his refusal to back the bill.

Last week, Manchin left open the option that he could support a modified bill after previously opposing the drafted legislation. He said he's open to backing several of the provisions in the so-called For the People Act, including declaring Election Day a public holiday, expanding early voting to at least 15 consecutive days and banning partisan gerrymandering.

But in return for his crucial support, Manchin wants to require identification to vote, which many progressives view as discriminatory toward racial minorities but which Republicans see as essential to deterring potential voter fraud. Manchin, too, has tried to woo Republicans to back a compromise effort, and held a teleconference call with several GOP senators even though the prospects of winning 60 votes in the 50-50 Senate are extremely dire.

Read more about Manchin's stance here.

7:36 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Key things to know about the For the People Act, the Democrats' voting rights bill

From CNN's Fredreka Schouten

The sweeping measures in the For the People Act, designated as S.1 in the Senate and H.R.1 in the House, touch on everything from the ground rules for voting to new disclosure requirements for presidents and changes to campaign finance law.

On elections, they would set a federal baseline for election rules and thwart some of the voting restrictions passed in key battleground states this year. Among other things: They would mandate 15 days of early voting and neuter states' strict voter ID requirements by allowing voters casting ballots in federal elections to submit a sworn affidavit instead of identification.

They also would require automatic and same-day voter registration and pre-paid postage on absentee ballots.

Although iterations of the bills have been around for several years, their proponents say the push to clamp down on access to the ballot in Republican-led states give them new urgency.

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

Although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has procedural avenues to bring the bill to the floor, it's unlikely to ever pass unless the 60-vote threshold to overcome a legislative filibuster is dismantled.

And Manchin, along with Republicans and several other moderate Democrats, opposes abandoning the filibuster.

Read more about the measures here.