Senators: Ending filibuster is only way to advance voting rights
Oregon's Democratic senators say that voting rights legislation can advance in the U.S. Senate only if there is an end to the filibuster, which allows a minority to thwart action.
Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley made their comments Wednesday, Oct. 20, after the Senate failed for the third time this year to allow debate to proceed on such legislation. All 50 Democrats voted to proceed — including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who attempted to craft a compromise from the original bill — but all 50 Republicans opposed it. A 60-vote threshold is required to block a filibuster.
Wyden sent a tweet after the vote: "Senate Republicans have made it clear their endgame is to stop as many Americans as possible from participating in our nation's democratic process. The only way to enact overdue and necessary voting rights legislation is by doing away with the filibuster."
Merkley was a sponsor of the original For the People Act (HR 1), which passed the House on a 220-210 vote back on March 3. All but one Democrat voted for it; one Democrat joined 209 Republicans to oppose it.
Merkley was a lead sponsor of a revised Freedom to Vote Act (S 2747), which would have set minimum standards for states, including automatic and same-day voter registration, and how mail ballots are handled. The revised bill reduced the scope of a proposed small-donor matching program for campaign contributions and required nonpartisan rules — but not independent commissions — for states to redraw congressional and legislative districts.
"We have a coronavirus pandemic that is challenging our nation and threatening the health of Americans. But in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and so many other states across the country, there is a second virus sweeping across the land: It's called voter suppression, and it's threatening the health of our democracy.
"Preserving and protecting our 'We the People' form of government should not be a partisan issue, and I commend Senator Manchin for going above and beyond to reach out to our Republican colleagues and to exhaust every avenue before we held this vote. Unfortunately, once again, Republican senators rejected any attempts to work together on behalf of our democracy, and instead filibustered to ensure the continuing corruption of our election systems.
"Nineteen states have already passed bills to block targeted groups of Americans from voting. Billionaires continue to buy elections with dark money. And Republican state officials, as we speak, are laying out their plans to rig the new round of legislative districts to seize power by denying Americans fair and equal representation.
"This legislation would end all of these tactics so the people — whatever their political affiliation, geography, skin color, or income — have the protected right to shape the decisions that affect us all and to elect politicians who reflect their values. That is an American value, not a partisan one. Seizing power by denying your political rivals an equal chance to vote is a diabolical threat to our constitutional vision and Americans' freedom.
"This obstruction was, sadly, expected, and makes clear just how broken the Senate is. We must restore the Senate's ability to take on the big challenges, to debate the big issues and consider the views of senators from both sides of the aisle, and ultimately to pass legislation. Our rights and freedoms hang in the balance."
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