June 22 (UPI) -- Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked the For the People Act, a sweeping voting rights act, in an evenly split vote.
The Senate voted 50-50 along party lines, with Democrats failing to secure the 60 votes necessary to avoid a Republican filibuster on the procedural vote to open debate on the bill.
The For the People Act features a wide range of provisions aimed at expanding access to ballots and ending partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. It includes automatic voter registration for all who are eligible, ensuring the right to vote for those who have completed felony sentences, enhancing federal support for voting security and tightening fundraising rules for super PACs.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the Republican opposition to the bill "indefensible," saying that members of the GOP had aligned themselves with former President Donald Trump, who claimed without evidence that widespread voter fraud led to his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
"Once again, Senate Republicans have signed their names in the ledger of history alongside Donald Trump, the big lie and voter suppression," Schumer said.
"To their enduring disgrace, this vote, I'm ashamed to say is further evidence that voter suppression has become part of the official platform of the Republican Party."
Earlier, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell characterized the bill as a power grab by Democrats.
"At the end of the day which concocted crisis Democrats use as a justification for their top legislative priority doesn't make much difference. They've made it abundantly clear that the real driving force behind S.1 is a desire to rig the rules of American elections permanently in Democrats' favor," McConnell, R-Ky., said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Tuesday said he would vote to move forward with debate on the For the People Act in exchange for a pledge from Schumer that his proposed amendment to significantly alter the measure would get a vote in open debate.
"I have committed to him that if our Republican colleagues don't obstruct and allow us to move forward on the debate, we will take up his proposed substitute amendment as the first amendment we will consider," Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
Manchin earlier this month said he would vote against the bill saying he believes "partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy."
On Tuesday he said he still did not support the original bill proposed by Democrats but has "found common ground" on a potential new version.
"We've just got to keep working. That's what we're here for," he told ABC News.
President Joe Biden commended Democrats for unanimously coming together "to protect the sacred right to vote" while admonishing Republicans as he noted they "opposed even a debate."
"It was the suppression of a bill to end voter suppression -- another attack on voting rights that is sadly not unprecedented," he said. "The creed 'We Shall Overcome' is a longtime mainstay of the Civil Rights Movement. By coming together, Democrats took the next step forward in this continuous struggle -- not just on Capitol Hill, but across the country -- and a step forward to honor all those who came before us, people of all races and ages, who sacrificed and died to protect this sacred right."
Biden said he would have "more to say on this next week" but he and Vice President Kamala Harris, who presided over the vote, said that "the fight is not over" as they will continue to push for voting reform including the more moderate John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
"I think it is clear, certainly, for the American people that when we're talking about the right to vote, it is not a Republican concern or a Democratic concern. It is an American concern. This is about the American people's right to vote unfettered," she said.