Republican senators voted on Wednesday to block debate on a Democrat elections bill for the third time this year.
The Senate voted 50-49 in favor of opening debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, falling short of the necessary 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Among Republicans, only Senator Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) voted in favor of opening debate.
“Every American deserves equal opportunity to participate in our electoral system and political process, and this bill provides a starting point as we seek broader bipartisan consensus on how best to ensure that,” Murkowski said in a statement.
The bill would have restored provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, requiring districts with a history of voter discrimination to obtain approval from the Justice Department in order to change election rules. The Supreme Court invalidated those provisions of the Voting Rights Act in its decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) took aim at the bill in remarks on the Senate floor before the vote.
“This has become an almost-weekly routine: my friends on the other side trying to give Washington unprecedented power over how Americans vote,” McConnell said.
“In many of these bills, congressional Democrats propose to make themselves into a national Board of Elections,” McConnell added. “Today there’s a small difference: they want instead to hand that power to Attorney General [Merrick] Garland. Different branch of government; same bad idea.”
Republicans blocked debate on a separate elections bill last month that would have set national standards for voter ID to allow a range of documents for identification, and set a minimum 15-day early voting period for all elections, among other provisions. While Democrats said that legislation was necessary to expand voter access, Republicans criticized it as a federalization of election processes traditionally handled by states.