Getty U.S. Capitol building
Supporters of a major voting rights bill are slamming Republicans after the Senate's conservative minority unanimously voted against advancing a measure that aims to make it easier for people to vote and register to vote.
The For the People Act stalled in the Senate on Tuesday after it fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP-backed filibuster. The procedural vote of 50-50 meant that the bill did not move to the floor for a debate or an amendment process that would shape the eventual legislation.
Anticipating the outcome in advance of the vote, Democrats were already criticizing Republicans for their opposition, saying voting against such a measure was akin to denying people the right to vote.
The GOP, which has supported a raft of voting restrictions across the country to combat fraud that experts say doesn't exist at a widespread level, said this legislation would have intruded on local authority over elections.
Other Republicans say their position is about ensuring election integrity.
"Republicans are afraid of our power, so they're doing everything they can to silence our voices & deny our freedom to vote," voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams wrote in a tweet published shortly before the vote.
Abrams is among those leading the charge against recent measures put in place in Republican-led states such as Georgia, where lawmakers passed a complicated bill that makes it harder to vote in some cases.
In response to those measures, Democrats increasingly rallied around the For the People Act, an expansive federal measure which would help create a nationwide automatic voter registration system, expand mail-in voting, restore voting rights to people with a past felony and protect against a state's attempts to create restrictive new laws surrounding voter ID.
After the House of Representatives passed the bill, advocates such as Former First lady Michelle Obama urged the Senate to do the same "as soon as possible - because there is nothing more important to the health and future of our democracy than safeguarding the right to vote."
Prior to the vote, President Joe Biden also called on Congress to pass the measure, tweeting, "We can't sit idly by while democracy is in peril - here, in America. We need to protect the sacred right to vote and ensure 'We the People' choose our leaders, the very foundation on which our democracy rests. We urgently need the For The People Act. Send it to my desk."
The legislation always faced an uphill battle in the Senate, however, where it needed 10 Republican votes to pass.
After not a single Republican voted in favor of the measure, voting rights activists and Democrats were quick to push back on GOP lawmakers.
In an op-ed for USA Today, political analyst Donna Brazile, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Republicans voting against the measure made a "mockery of their support of Juneteenth" just days earlier.
Arguing Republicans were waging a "war on democracy," Brazile wrote that blocking the bill "was a major defeat for the American people and our right to vote - a fundamental right long denied to millions of Black Americans, including my enslaved ancestors and my own grandparents and parents born in the South after slavery ended."
Brazile continued: "Making Juneteenth a holiday shines a long overdue spotlight on America's immoral embrace of slavery and racism. But suppressing the votes of Black Americans and other Americans is a fresh assault on our rights."
The Senate unanimously passed a measure to make Juneteenth a federal holiday last week, followed by the House in a 415-14 vote before it headed to the Oval Office where it was signed into law by Biden.
Other proponents of the For the People Act expressed similar criticism.
"There are unjust bills in dozens of state legislatures that would limit early voting and vote by mail and otherwise make it harder for the American people to vote. Make no mistake: While these attacks are meant to silence some Americans, the impact is felt by all Americans," Harris said.
She said the administration remained undeterred, though the White House is likely to continue to face major legislative challenges because of the filibuster and their differences with the GOP.
"Like generations before, we will not give up, we will not give in, and we will continue the fight to strengthen the right to vote," Harris said, adding later in her statement: "It is our duty, at every opportunity, to protect and strengthen the right to vote."
Already Democratic lawmakers have vowed to continue fighting to pass the bill, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar saying from the floor on Tuesday, "This is not the end of the line, this is only the beginning."
On Wednesday, a group of civil rights organizations announced that they would host a "March On for Voting Rights" Aug. 28 to coincide with the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
"It disheartens me to say that as a country and society, we are not even close to where my father hoped we would be since delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech 58 years ago," Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Board for the Drum Major Institute, said in a press release announcing the march. "I think my father would be greatly disappointed in where we are at this particular moment, but he would not give up on the nation."