US Senate to debate Democrats' key voting rights bill
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the Senate Minority Leader.

Senate Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at lowering voting barriers nationwide, a Biden administration priority at a time many Republican-run states seek to impose new limits in the wake of Donald Trump's election loss.

Two weeks after the House of Representatives passed the For the People Act, Senate leadership put forward its version which would expand and protect early and mail-in voting, require states to offer same-day voter registration, make Election Day a federal holiday and remove so-called dark money from politics.

The measure is unlikely to clear the Senate, which is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and where a blocking tactic known as the filibuster requires 60 votes to advance bills in the 100-seat chamber.

However, it lays down a marker in a heated political battle over fair democratic elections.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the measure will receive a hearing next Wednesday and a floor vote after that.

It will force Republicans to go on record over a bill that will "stand up to voter suppression... and re-invigorate American democracy in the 21st century," he said.

After November's presidential win by Joe Biden, dozens of states with Republican-controlled legislatures seized on what Schumer described as former president Trump's "big lie" that massive voter fraud led to a stolen election.

The legislatures introduced "over 250 bills making it harder for people to vote," Schumer said, attacking Republican efforts to prevent Americans, especially people of color, from exercising their hard-fought rights.

"That is anti-democratic, that is anti-American, and it's nothing short... of despicable, nasty, and in many cases racist."

The Senate bill would reform campaign finance laws, require at least 15 days of early voting, allow no-excuse mail voting, and boost election security measures.

Republicans en bloc opposed the House bill, warning it would tilt elections in favor of Democratic candidates and give too much power to the federal government to control elections.

Some leading Democrats have argued that the Senate filibuster should be reformed to allow voting rights legislation to pass with a simple majority vote.