Senate Republicans block Democrats' election bill
US Republicans have torpedoed a Democratic bid to implement nationwide election rules, a cherished priority of President Joe Biden's party.
The bill - which sought to make it easier to vote by post - ended up deadlocked 50-50 in a party line vote.
Mr Biden said the issue was the "fight of his presidency", but some Democrats accuse him of not fighting hard enough.
Advocates say the bill would have been the most far-reaching election measure since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Democrats' For the People Act passed the House of Representatives in March in a near party-line vote, with one Democrat joining all Republicans in opposing the bill.
But 60 votes are needed in the 100-member Senate to advance most legislation, and the upper chamber is evenly split 50-50 between the two parties.
The far-reaching proposal, at nearly 900 pages, was viewed by backers as the civil rights issue of the era, legislation that is suddenly of the highest priority after the 2020 election as states impose restrictive new laws that could make it more difficult to vote. In the evenly split Senate, Republicans were united in opposition, seeing the bill as federal overreach and ultimately denying Democrats the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster and begin debate.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat and senior pastor at the Atlanta church Martin Luther King Jr. once led, called minority Republicans' intention of blocking debate a "dereliction" of duty.
"What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to preserve minority rights in the society," Warnock, who is Black, said during a floor speech Tuesday.
Republicans showed no sign of yielding.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a "partisan power grab" and pledged to help fulfill the Senate's "founding purpose" by stopping it. He also cautioned Democrats against changing the filibuster, calling voting rights "the worst possible place" to "trash the Senate’s rules to ram something through."
Months in the making, Tuesday’s showdown over the For the People Act, as it is called, is hardly the end of the road.