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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the phone

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) talks on his cell phone before the start of a news conference on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

In 'Perilous New Moment for Our Democracy,' 100+ Groups Push Schumer, Dems to Nuke Filibuster

"In the face of Republicans' inability and unwillingness to defend our democracy, it is clearer than ever that the filibuster needs to be eliminated."

Warning that the GOP's recent obstruction and attacks on voting rights have ushered in a "perilous new moment for our democracy," a coalition of more than 100 progressive advocacy groups demanded Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Democratic caucus immediately abolish the legislative filibuster.

"We have moved past hypotheticals," the groups wrote in a letter to Schumer (D-N.Y.), referring to the Senate GOP's decision last week to filibuster a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

"Democrats have to make the fundamental choice. Are they going to protect the filibuster or are they going to protect voting rights?"
—Eli Zupnick, Fix Our Senate

"In the face of Republicans' inability and unwillingness to defend our democracy, it is clearer than ever that the filibuster needs to be eliminated," the coalition continued. "We cannot allow the filibuster to stand in the way of progress or imperil the health of our democracy."

Signed by Fix Our Senate, Common Cause, Greenpeace USA, and 100 other organizations, the letter comes just weeks before the Senate is expected to vote on the For the People Act, an ambitious voting rights expansion bill that stands no chance of passage as long as the 60-vote filibuster remains in place.

The letter uses Schumer's own words to emphasize the urgency of approving the For the People Act, which—according to the Brennan Center for Justice—would negate virtually all of the hundreds of voter suppression bills that Republicans have introduced and passed at the state level in recent months.

"We are witnessing the 'greatest contraction of voting rights since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow,' as Republican legislatures across America attack voting rights and play partisan games with their election laws," the letter reads, quoting from a tweet Schumer posted last month. "Passing S.1, the For the People Act, is essential in light of these attacks on Americans' fundamental voting and civil rights."

Schumer has insisted that "failure is not an option" when it comes to passing the For the People Act and vowed that "everything is on the table" to push the popular bill through the Senate.

But the majority leader has yet to explicitly endorse abolishing the filibuster as two conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—continue to openly defend the 60-vote rule.

Eliminating or weakening the filibuster requires a simple-majority vote, meaning Senate Democrats would need to win over Manchin, Sinema, and less vocal filibuster supporters in the caucus. If the filibuster is left in place, Senate Democrats face the even more difficult task of convincing at least 10 of their Republican counterparts to support the For the People Act.

Eli Zupnick, a spokesperson for Fix Our Senate, told NBC News Thursday that the GOP's assault on democracy "is truly a five-alarm fire."

"Democrats have to make the fundamental choice," said Zupnick. "Are they going to protect the filibuster or are they going to protect voting rights?"

Below is the progressive coalition's full letter and the list of signatories:

Majority Leader Schumer,  

Thank you for your strong leadership and continued dedication to making progress on essential priorities for the American people and for our democracy in the face of partisan obstruction.

We have moved past hypotheticals and entered a perilous new moment for our democracy. Senate Republicans' decision to block legislation establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection is a shameful abdication of their duties to our country. As Senator Joe Manchin said, "So disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country." That Republicans could not even support a bipartisan investigation into a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol reflects dangerously misplaced priorities: they have chosen party over country, obstruction over progress, and Trump over democracy.

In the face of Republicans' inability and unwillingness to defend our democracy, it is clearer than ever that the filibuster needs to be eliminated. As Senator Brian Schatz stated, "filibustering a bipartisan Commission regarding the January 6 insurrection is a three dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics."

Meanwhile, we are witnessing the "greatest contraction of voting rights since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow," as Republican legislatures across America attack voting rights and play partisan games with their election laws.

Passing S.1, the For the People Act, is essential in light of these attacks on Americans' fundamental voting and civil rights. Yet Senate Minority Leader McConnell has called blocking the For the People Act his "top priority" and is committed to using the filibuster as a weapon to keep our democracy rigged.

We cannot allow the filibuster to stand in the way of progress or imperil the health of our democracy. As columnist E.J. Dionne noted, "No amount of cajoling, compromising, begging, pleading, or standing-on-your-head-and-holding-your-breath will change this... you can defend voting rights or you can defend the filibuster. You can't do both."

Investigating an insurrection and protecting voting rights should not be controversial or partisan—and they should not be issues that a minority of senators are allowed to block.

We call on you and the Senate Democratic caucus to eliminate the filibuster as a weapon that Sen. McConnell can use to block efforts to defend and strengthen our democracy and make our government work for the American people.

Signed,

Fix Our Senate

Battle Born Collective

Common Cause

Indivisible

People For the American Way

Stand Up America

Working Families Party

#NoRA

20/20 Vision

350 Butte County

350 Eugene

350Hawaii

44 Virtues

Alliance for Youth Action

American Family Voices

Athens County's Future Action Network (OH)

Be A Hero

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Blue Future

Blue Wave Postcard Movement

Brave New Films

Broward for Progress

Businesses for a Livable Climate

CA Businesses for a Livable Climate

Call to Action Colorado

Can’t Stop! Won't Stop Consulting

CatholicNetwork US

Center for International Policy

Center For law And Social Justice at Medgar Evers College

Center for Popular Democracy Action

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Clean Elections Texas

Climate Hawks Vote

CO Businesses for a Livable Climate

Colorado Small Business Coalition

Common Power

Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Conejo Climate Coalition

Courage California

Demand Progress

DemCast USA

 

Democracy Initiative

Democracy North Carolina

Demos

Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance

Equal Justice Society

Faith in Public Life Action Fund

Feminist Majority

Fix Democracy First

For All

Free Speech For People

Friends of the Earth

Future Coalition

Glen Echo Heights Mobilization

Greenpeace USA

Impulse Group DC

Indivisible Georgia Coalition

Indivisible Marin

Indivisible Northern Nevada

International Indigenous Youth Council, Los Angeles

Mainers for Accountable leadership

March For Our Lives

Michiganders for Fair and Transparent Elections

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action

MoveOn

National Immigration Law Center

National Organization for Women

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New American Leaders Action Fund

North Range Concerned Citizens

Northridge Indivisible

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Our Revolution

PEER: Suffolk County

People's Action

People's Parity Project

Presente.org

Progress Arizona

Progressive Democrats of America-Virginia

Progressive Turnout Project

Public Citizen

Rapid Shift Network

Red2Blue

RepresentUs New Mexico

Secure Elections Network

Sierra Club

Social Eco Education (SEE-LA)

Social Security Works

Southern Christian Coalition

Spirit of the Sun

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

Sunrise Movement

Supermajority

Take Back the Court

The Workers Circle

True Blue New York

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unite North Metro Denver

Wall of Women

Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice

Women's March

Working Families Party WV

WV Citizen Action Group


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