Voting rights up for debate on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – Passionate calls for national voter rights reform are expected on Capitol Hill as the Senate begins debate on two contentious bills.

Tuesday, the Senate begins debating the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But unless something changes, debate could be as far as it goes.

Democrats are bracing for an uphill battle on Capitol Hill. At the center of the fight: voting rights legislation.

The legislation could make Election Day a federal holiday and broaden access to the ballot box.

Democrats argue it’s an effort to counter dozens of state laws enacted after the 2020 election which they say limit access to the ballot and discriminate against minorities.

“It’s no longer just about who gets to vote,” President Joe Biden said. “It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.”

Republicans stand united against the legislation.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, Calif.) said, “This is not about a fair election. This is about gaming the system and putting your thumb on the scale for Democrats to try to keep control of the Congress.”

The debate comes on the heels of nationwide rallies commemorating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Senator Raphael Warnock (D, Ga.) said, “We will be free someday, we will get voting rights!”

Supporters are drawing on the civil rights leaders’ legacy to ramp up the pressure on Congress to act.

Martin Luther King III, the son of Martin Luther King Jr., said, “If you do not, there’s no bridge in this nation that can hold the weight of that failure.”

Democratic leaders will hold a vote this week on changing historic Senate rules  that would allow Democrats to pass the voting bills without Republican support.

The debate over voting rights legislation will likely stretch into Wednesday before a final vote.

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