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Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) delivers his first speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) delivers his first speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (Photo: CSPAN Screengrab/Ari Berman)

Warnock Says Filibuster Must Not Hinder Fight Against 'Jim Crow in New Clothes'

"This issue is bigger than the filibuster," says Georgia Democrat in first-ever Senate floor speech.

Jake Johnson

In his first-ever floor speech in the U.S. Senate chamber on Wednesday, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia condemned Republican-led attacks on voting rights in his home state and nationwide as "Jim Crow in new clothes" and implored his party not to allow an archaic rule like the legislative filibuster to stand in the way of efforts to protect and expand the franchise.

"No Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy," Warnock said of the 60-vote filibuster, which he characterized as just part of the broader and more "foundational" issue of whether people's voices are heard and reflected in government.

"It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society."
—Sen. Raphael Warnock

"I'm not here to spiral into the procedural argument over whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I'm here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster," said the Democratic senator. "This issue, access to voting and preempting politicians' efforts to restrict voting, is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict expansion of voting rights."

"It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society," Warnock continued, alluding to the effective veto the modern filibuster hands to the minority party in the upper chamber. "We must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not."

Watch Warnock's full speech:

Warnock's remarks came shortly after the Senate officially unveiled S. 1, its version of the For the People Act. The Georgia senator said the Senate must work to quickly pass both the S. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, bills that the Brennan Center for Justice characterized as "our best opportunity in a half century to achieve a truly inclusive America."

Denouncing the more 250 voter suppression bills introduced across the country since January as "democracy in reverse" and attempts by Republican politicians to "cherrypick their voters," Warnock declared, "This cannot stand."

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