Amendment To Filibuster For Voting Rights Proposed By Sen. Warnock

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In remarks on the Senate floor this week, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) called for a change to the Senate’s filibuster rules in order to allow for the enactment of new protections at the federal level for voting rights. These filibuster rules, as they stand at present, require the agreement of at least 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber before moving forward on most bills. In practice, these provisions mean that most successful legislation must be at least somewhat bipartisan — and the provisions also mean that obstructionist Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell can refuse to even come to the negotiating table (literally or figuratively), thereby irrevocably standing in the way of progress.

Two bills have recently been pushed in the Senate that would shore up federal protections for voting rights, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Both pieces of legislation have already been blocked by filibustering Republicans, who voted against moving forward with the bills. As Warnock put it this week, though:

‘I have to tell you that the most important thing that we can do this Congress is to get voting rights done. Voting rights are preservative of all other rights. They lay the ground for all of the other debates. And so, to my Democratic colleagues, I say while it is deeply unfortunate, it is more than apparent that it has been left to us to handle alone the task of safeguarding our democracy. Sadly, many of our Republican friends have already cast their vote with voter suppression. And so, the judgment of history is upon us. Future generations will ask, ‘When the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out?’ Did we rise to the moment? Or did we hide behind procedural rules?’

Warnock said that he believes that Democrats “can figure out how to get this done, even if that requires a change in the rules,” which would, in fact, be the necessity. Watch his comments below:

If enacted, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would re-establish requirements for federal approval prior to the implementation of certain changes to the conducting of elections. Such provisions were included in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, before their dismantling in a 2013 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The hope with having such rules in place would be to stop certain instances of voter suppression before they begin. Meanwhile, the Freedom to Vote Act would, among other things, “make it easier to register to vote, make Election Day a public holiday, ensure states have early voting for federal elections and allow all voters to request mail-in ballots,” CNN explained. If made law, the bill would also clamp down on gerrymandering, outlawing legislative district maps that have “the intent or [have] the effect of materially favoring or disfavoring any political party.”