Senators voted 52-48 to defeat the rules change, which would have nixed the 60-vote hurdle for the election bill. To have been successful, Democrats would need total unity from all 50 of their members, plus Vice President Harris to break a tie.
The outcome of the vote was telegraphed, but it marks a defeat of Democrats’ months-long push to pass voting rights legislation, even if it meant changing the rules so they could do it alone.
Even as the effort appeared poised to fall short, Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer(D-N.Y.) poured time and political capital into the fight.
Biden went to Georgia earlier this month to urge Senate Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, and change the Senate’s rules if necessary, and made a similar pitch to the caucus during a closed-door meeting last week.
In a statement after the vote, Biden said that he was “profoundly disappointed” in the Senate.
Schumer has talked up the issue both on the Senate floor, during a blitz of TV appearances and back in New York this week for Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations. Democrats were under pressure to hold the vote, regardless of the outcome, to show that they were all-in on voting rights.
Schumer made a final plea to his own party after Republicans blocked a voting bill on Wednesday night that would have combined the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls elections and campaign finance laws, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would expand and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“The only choice to move forward on these vital issues is to change the rules in the modest way we have proposed. My colleagues, history is watching us. Let us choose in favor of our democracy,” Schumer said.