US voting rights bill fails in Senate
Photo credit: Stephanie Sundier
US voting rights bill fails in Senate

US Senate Democrats failed Wednesday to change filibuster rules and pass voting rights legislation.

HR 5746, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act narrowly passed in the House of Representatives last week by 220-203 votes, but the Senate defeat had been expected.

The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would have made significant changes to voting access, election administration, redistricting and campaign finance. The legislation combined two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and would have been the most significant overhaul of US election laws since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While Senate Democrats did succeed in forcing a debate of the legislation, sparking heated exchanges and impassioned speeches, the bill ultimately failed to advance when Democrats were unable to muster 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster. When Democrats later attempted to change filibuster rules to allow the legislation to advance by a simple majority, that effort also failed as two Democrats voted with Republicans against the move.

The defeat comes as a blow for President Joe Biden who has supported both the voting rights legislation and the change in filibuster rules. Democrats had pushed for the legislation as many states have recently approved measures they claim will make it more difficult for people to vote.