Senate Republicans blocked the John Lewis Voting Rights Act from advancing on Wednesday when the Senate took a procedural vote on whether to open debate on the legislation.
The final tally was 50 to 49 with GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting with Democrats in favor.
The John Lewis voting bill that the Senate considered is aimed at fighting voter suppression and restoring and updating key parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965. The measure is named in honor of the civil rights icon and late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
At least 10 Republicans would have needed to join with all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus for the legislation to advance. That was not expected to happen as most Republicans have decried any Democratic attempts to enact new voting legislation in the current Congress as partisan and unnecessary.
Democrats have been under intense pressure to pass voting legislation as the party currently holds a majority in both chambers of Congress and the White House. But efforts by the party to do so have run into a wall of opposition in the Senate as a result of GOP resistance.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced a Senate version of the legislation early in October. Earlier this week, Leahy, along with Murkowski and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Dick Durbin of Illinois, released an updated, bipartisan compromise version of the bill making changes to the text to garner bipartisan support.
The bipartisan compromise could only later be offered as an amendment if the Senate were able to proceed to the bill.
Murkowski, who voted to advance the bill on Wednesday, spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the vote.
“I will be among those who vote to begin debate on this measure when we have this vote in a few minutes,” she said, “I will do so because I strongly support and I believe that Congress should enact a bipartisan, re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act.”
Speaking of efforts to broker bipartisan compromise, Murkowski said, “At this point, I feel that we’ve got a good foundation to help provide access to the ballot that is equal for all Americans and free from any form of discrimination. We should all be able to support legislation to assure just that much.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thanked Murkowski after the vote on Wednesday, while criticizing the rest of the Senate Republican conference for blocking the measure.
“I thank her for working with us in good faith on this bill,” he said, “but where is the rest of the party of Lincoln? Down to the last member, the rest of the Republican conference has refused to engage, refused to debate, refused to acknowledge that our country faces a serious threat to democracy.”
Schumer said “just because Republicans will not join us doesn’t mean Democrats will stop fighting,” and went on to say they will work to “find an alternative path forward, even if it means going at it alone to defend the most fundamental liberty we have as citizens.”
Democrats, however, don’t have 50 votes to eliminate the filibuster with some moderate Senators, including Manchin, opposed.
Expressing GOP opposition to the measure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the voting legislation at a news conference on Tuesday.
“This is a Trojan horse to carry a lot of other provisions that the Democrats had wanted to enact through the earlier voting rights bill that we’ve already considered and rejected,” he said.
“Clearly they want to change the subject away from how the American people feel about this administration, about the reckless tax and spending bill onto a nonexistent problem with this marching out of the John Lewis voting rights act,” he said.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Ali Zaslav and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.