Democrats unified in favor of debating the bill. But it failed to get 60 votes to advance.
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans filibustered debate on voting rights legislation Tuesday, putting Democrats in a predicament about how to advance their high-priority bill.
The vote to advance an amended version of the "For The People Act" split along party lines 50-50, short of the 60 needed. All Democrats voted to begin debate and Republicans unanimously voting to block the bill.
Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bill an effort to respond to restrictive voting laws in GOP-led states like Georgia, and said the procedural vote was simply to allow debate and an amendment process that will shape the eventual bill.
"They don’t even want to debate it because they’re afraid. They want to deny the right to vote, make it harder to vote for so many Americans, and they don’t want to talk about it," Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Tuesday. "There is a rot — a rot — at the center of the modern Republican party. Donald Trump's big lie has spread like a cancer and threatens to envelop one of America’s major political parties."
Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked by the White House to work on voting rights, presided over the Tuesday debate in the Senate.
The legislation is cosponsored by 49 Democratic members of the Senate. The one holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday he'd vote to begin debate after receiving assurances that the Senate would consider a compromise version that he has said he can support.
"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," Manchin said in a statement, while adding that he doesn't support the bill as written.
“We’ll keep talking,” he said after the vote. “You can’t give up. You really can't.”
Democrats have been facing renewed pressure from their base to abolish the filibuster to push the bill through, but they don't currently have the votes to do that. Manchin remains opposed to nuking the 60-vote rule, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., reiterated her support for the super-majority threshold to pass bills in an opinion piece published Monday.
Schumer has insisted that "failure is not an option," but he would not say what the next steps would be before the vote, where a filibuster was widely anticipated.
"Look, we will have the vote, and then we will discuss our future," he told reporters. "I'm not going to put the cart before the horse."