Stacey Abrams Hits GOP With 50 State Voting Rights Plan

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Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee in the 2018 Georgia governor’s race and a current voting rights advocate, has a powerful proposal for curtailing GOP voter suppression efforts across the entire United States, Mother Jones reports. In short, Abrams hopes to see an adjustment to the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate that would exempt voting rights legislation from the provision, and with the removal of this category of lawmaking from subjection to the filibuster, meaningful protections could pass with significantly more ease.

Abrams commented as follows:

‘Republicans are rolling back the clock on voting rights, and the only way to head that off is to invoke the elections clause of the Constitution, which allows the Congress—and the Congress alone—to set the time, place and manner of elections at a federal level… The judicial appointment exception [to the filibuster], the Cabinet appointment exception, the budget reconciliation exception, are all grounded in this idea that these are constitutionally prescribed responsibilities that should not be thwarted by minority imposition. And we should add to it the right to protect democracy. It is a foundational principle in our country. And it is an explicit role and responsibility accorded only to Congress in the elections clause in the Constitution.’

In the Senate, the current filibuster rule, as it’s sometimes known, allows members of the minority to essentially block most legislation if they band together in large enough numbers. As she noted, there are some exceptions to this rule, but to move to a vote on most legislation, the 100-member Senate requires 60 votes. Although Democrats currently control the chamber, they don’t have 60 votes. Their control is slim — they only have 51 votes, including the tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.

This Senate requirement for bipartisan agreement can seriously thwart the legislative process, since Republicans haven’t exactly seemed keen on meaningful engagement with Democrats, no matter the GOP’s showboating. Recently, the Senate passed the COVID-19 economic relief bill through a means called budget reconciliation, under which only 51 votes are required for a measure to move to a vote — but only a comparatively slim category of legislation is eligible for the budget reconciliation process.

In Congress, Democrats have already put forward substantive voting rights legislation, including H.R. 1, otherwise known as the For the People Act, which is designed to protect voting rights across the country and help shield against corruption in the federal government. A minority of Democrats, however, have vocally stated their opposition to the complete elimination of the filibuster rule, meaning that the path for ambitious legislation is steep.

Abrams added as follows:

‘This isn’t about retribution or revenge. This is about protection of the fundamentals of our nation, that if we do not protect the participation of voters in our election system, if we do not permit states to do what they must to protect their voters, then we will find ourselves losing our democratic values, losing our democracy. And so I would say to Democrats who are hesitant that, short of completely revising the filibuster, we have to make certain that a minority of people cannot be in power in the Senate, and therefore deny the basic principles of citizenship to millions of Americans.’

Going forward, President Joe Biden himself has expressed opposition to totally eliminating the filibuster.