Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters on December 14, 2021.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rev. Barber Tells Senate Dems to Bring Voting Rights, Minimum Wage, Abortion Bills to Floor

"You can't say the rules keep you from doing something when you have the power to change the rules," says Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II wrote an open letter Sunday imploring Senate Democrats to pass legislation that would protect voting rights, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and enshrine reproductive freedom--all bills that have already been approved by House Democrats this session--before Republicans take control of the lower chamber in a few short weeks.

Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D-Ga.) recent reelection victory "was not the result of ending voter suppression," wrote Barber. Instead, it provided "evidence of the exceptional efforts of the people despite voter suppression--especially poor and low-wage voters of different backgrounds who joined neighbors who oppose extremism to give you an expanded majority."

"This coalition wants to see bills that have passed the House and are sitting on [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer's [D-N.Y.] desk become law before this Congress comes to an end," Barber noted.

"We know that voting rights protections, a $15 minimum wage, and protections for women's rights have stalled because two Democrats have not been willing to unite around plans to carve out the filibuster and overcome the united obstruction of 50 Republicans," he continued, referring to Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who officially switched her party registration to Independent in the wake of Warnock's win.

But given how "the midterms have unfolded for the Senate, you have a mandate from the voters now," Barber added. "And you have a narrow window in which your party can unite to make a real difference for the people. Now is the time to act."

Once House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "takes over the House," Barber warned, "you will have no chance of passing any of these policies for the next two years."

On social media, Barber pointed out that there has been no shortage of proposals for how to circumvent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) obstructionism, from reforming the filibuster to outright abolishing the anti-democratic 60-vote requirement.

The bottom line, he stressed, is that "you can't say the rules keep you from doing something when you have the power to change the rules."

In his open letter, Barber told Senate Democrats that "you cannot afford to let history record that over a two-year period you did not use every method at your disposal to pass the For the People Act, Voting Rights Act Restoration, $15 dollar minimum wage, and protection of a woman's right to choose--measures that already passed in the House, but have been blocked by the Senate's filibuster."

"Warnock won because poor and low-wage voters showed up, young people showed up, women showed up, and people who might not have supported a Democrat before showed up to say that they want to see these things happen," Barber emphasized. "Why don't you confound the common sense about lame-duck sessions and show the people who worked tirelessly to keep you in power that you are ready to go to work for them?"

"It has been more than nine years since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and 13 years since the federal minimum wage has increased," he added. "You would not have won the majority you now enjoy without the support of people targeted by voter suppression and low-wage workers. In this moment, you have the opportunity to vote for them. Now is the time to call the votes."

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