(Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Oct 19, 2021
With Senate Republicans expected to block a compromise voting rights bill backed by the chamber's full Democratic caucus on Wednesday, progressives are ramping up calls to finally kill the filibuster to protect American democracy and advance Democrats' other top priorities.
"The question is what President Biden and Senate Democrats do next. Do they throw in the towel or fight to amend the filibuster and save the republic?"
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved Monday to set up a vote on the Freedom to Vote Act, which Democrats unveiled last month after the GOP repeatedly blocked the bolder For the People Act.
Since then, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who opposes ending the filibuster, has been trying to convince at least 10 Republicans to support the newer bill, legislation he helped craft and which includes provisions to boost ballot access as well as campaign finance and redistricting reforms.
While Schumer has been publicly optimistic about potential GOP support, thanking Manchin and others "who have admirably sought common ground" with Republicans and expressing hope that they "now join us in common cause to protect the integrity of our democracy," NBC Newsnoted Monday "that's extremely unlikely to happen."
Given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismissing "far-left hysteria about our democracy" and vowing the bill "will go nowhere," Ezra Levin, co-founder of the group Indivisible, told NBC that "we know McConnell is going to filibuster... to prevent a vote on the Freedom to Vote Act. The question is what President [Joe] Biden and Senate Democrats do next. Do they throw in the towel or fight to amend the filibuster and save the republic?"
In a Tuesday call with reporters, voting rights advocates urged Biden and Democrats in the evenly split Senate to fight harder to abolish the filibuster.
"Right now I do not believe Joe Biden is doing everything he can," Stand Up America president Sean Eldridge reportedly said during the call. "We need a lot more from the White House to get this across the finish line."
\u201c.@importantmeagan: It would be great if President Biden walked out to a podium & spoke into a microphone: 'You've got to get rid of the filibuster' because passing voting rights legislation is existential to our democracy\u201d— Fix Our Senate (@Fix Our Senate) 1634655569
Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn pointed out Tuesday that "Americans overwhelmingly support the Freedom to Vote Act because they believe that every one of us should have the freedom to vote so that we all have an equal say in the future for our family and community, regardless of our age, our political party, our background, or our zip code."
Acknowledging that the U.S. Supreme Court has "gutted" the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and "a number of states have taken full advantage by erecting barriers to make it harder for many of their residents to vote," Hobert Flynn asserted that "Congress must step in to stop this injustice just as it did to combat the Jim Crow laws" with the VRA over five decades ago.
Her organization, in a series of tweets Monday, also highlighted the barrier posed by the filibuster.
\u201cReforming the filibuster is the clearest path forward for #votingrights, and it all comes down to these next few weeks.\n \nIt is time to #FixOrNix the #Filibuster.\u201d— Common Cause (@Common Cause) 1634567882
Noting that "there is still no plan for overcoming a GOP filibuster" to pass the Freedom to Vote Act in the Senate, longtime voting rights reporter Ari Berman warned Tuesday in Mother Jones that Democrats "are running out of time" to stop Republicans from rigging future elections.
"To understand the high costs of inaction, look no further than Texas," Berman wrote. "One month after passing one of the country's worst voter suppression laws, Texas Republicans enacted new redistricting maps that lock in power for white Republicans by denying fair representation to communities of color."
\u201cIf Dems don\u2019t reform filibuster to pass Freedom to Vote Act, GOP will retake House through extreme gerrymandering & lock in anti-democratic power in states like Texas for next decade & beyond\u00a0https://t.co/KD981rML6A\u201d— Ari Berman (@Ari Berman) 1634647663
Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program, explained in a blog post last week how the Freedom to Vote Act would prevent efforts like those of Texas Republicans by banning partisan gerrymandering, adding protections for communities of color, and making it "far easier for voters to challenge bad maps in court and win changes."
"Senate Democrats can no longer divorce the filibuster from the promises and issues they ran on."
"With Americans staring down the barrel of another round of aggressive gerrymandering, time is running short for Congress," Li wrote. "It's critical that the Freedom to Vote Act becomes law without delay if the nation is to avoid another decade of skewed maps."
Rev. Stephany Spaulding, a spokesperson for Just Democracy and founder of Truth and Conciliation, reiterated on Monday that changing the Senate's rules is the only real path to passing the legislation.
"The Freedom to Vote Act went through endless debate and compromises, but even a compromise bill won't win 60 votes in our broken Senate," Spaulding predicted. "Republicans are committed to using every tool to prevent Black and Brown voters from accessing the ballot box, and the Jim Crow filibuster is the ultimate weapon to block progress."
"Sen. Manchin searched for 10 Republicans to support voting rights legislation, but Republican senators willing to break with Sen. McConnell and stand on the right side of history simply don't exist," she added. "Senate Democrats can no longer divorce the filibuster from the promises and issues they ran on--they must act with urgency to get rid of the filibuster."
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