Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Bringing Forward Legislation To Protect Voting Rights And Safeguard Our Democracy

June 17, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding bringing forward legislation to protect the right to vote, strengthen our democracy, and put a stop to the tide of voter suppression flooding across our country. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

We are here on the precipice of a momentous debate here in the Senate.

Last night, I began the process to consider voting rights legislation here on the floor, next week. The process I used will allow the Senate to consider S.1 or compromise legislation that is currently being discussed. In either case, our goal remains crystal clear: protect the right to vote, strengthen our democracy, and put a stop to the tide of voter suppression flooding across our country.

We will not consider legislation that does not achieve those objectives.

This issue is too important. Republican state legislatures are conducting the most sweeping attack on the right to vote since the beginning of Jim Crow.

What is their stated reason for vicious assaults on voting rights? They say it’s “Election integrity.” But listen to these policies, and tell me if you think they are about election integrity:

Reducing polling hours and polling places – what does that have to do with election integrity?

Mandating that every precinct—no matter how large or how small—have the same number of ballot drop boxes – what does that have to do with election integrity? It’s saying urban areas should have less ability to vote than rural areas.

No after-hours voting, no 24-hours voting, no drive-thru voting.

Requiring absentee ballots be approved by a notary public.

Making it a crime to give food and water to voters waiting in long lines at the polls.

Allowing a judge or panel of judges to overturn an election.

Allowing a partisan State Election Board to replace a duly-elected county elections board if they’re “underperforming.”

Removing student IDs from the list of valid forms of ID.

Moving the hours of Sunday voting into the evening, which coincidentally makes it harder for Black churches to sponsor voter drives after services.

I’d ask a single Republican on this Senate floor to get up and say if any of these policies are dealing with election integrity.

We know what they’re doing: they’re making it harder for people to vote. And if this so-called voter fraud, election fraud—which we’ve seen none of in 2020—if they cared about that across the board, why do they aim almost all their proposals at people of color, at poor people, at young people, at urban people?

We know why.

This is not about voter fraud, it’s about suppressing the vote, particularly of Democratic-leaning voters. It’s despicable, it’s anti-democratic, it’s what they do in dictatorships, manipulate the vote instead of counting it accurately.

Georgia. Iowa. Montana. Florida. Alabama. Utah. Arizona. Nebraska. Oklahoma. Indiana. Kentucky. Kansas. Arkansas. This is where some of these policies that I just mentioned are now law. They would be also in effect in Texas, had Democratic lawmakers not walked out of the chamber in protest. Since the beginning of the year, 14 states have enacted 22 laws, 22 laws, to make it harder to vote.

Now, I know what the Republicans are saying. They are saying, oh we’re making it easier to vote, but harder to cheat.

But when you look at what they’re actually doing, it is perfectly clear that Republicans across the country are making it harder to vote, and making it easier to steal an election.

They are targeting all the ways that poorer, younger, non-white, and typically Democratic voters access the ballot.

And they are giving new tools to partisan election boards and unelected judges to interfere with the results of a democratic election.

Does that sound like a democracy? No, it sounds like an autocracy and dictatorship.

When you lose an election, you’re supposed to try to win over more voters, not try to stop the other side from voting. These laws are un-American, autocratic, and against the very grain of our grand democracy, which, for immediate partisan advantage, our Republican friends are trying to undermine.

So the Senate is going to debate what to do about these laws at the federal level next week.

In an ideal world, this debate would be bipartisan. Voting rights shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, and in the early days of the second half of the last century, that’s just what it was - bipartisan.

But unfortunately, now it’s become totally partisan. Donald Trump – his Big Lie has enveloped the Republican Party, and they run away from truth and honesty and fairness just to appease someone with a very authoritarian instinct – Donald J. Trump.

And for all the shame that Republican state legislators have brought upon themselves, Washington Republicans have not covered themselves in glory either.

Here in Washington, Republicans have failed to forcefully and repeatedly stand up to the Big Lie that the last election was stolen from Donald Trump. The same Big Lie is fueling these voter suppression laws from one end of the country to the other.

House Republicans are comparing January 6th to a tourist visit. I was within 20 feet of these awful insurrectionists. They were not tourists. They were brandishing sticks and guns and this and that. House Republicans also fired Congresswoman Cheney, for what? Telling the truth that Joe Biden is president. Just yesterday, 21 House Republicans voted against awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to the police officers who withstood the attack on the 6th.

Republicans are you becoming anti-police?

Some of the same Republicans who falsely accused Democrats of wanting to defund the police are actively refusing to defend the police.

I wish I could say the Senate was totally different than the Republican House. But here we have a Senate Republican saying that there really wasn’t a violent insurrection. We have Senate Republicans refusing to include any mention of the causes for January 6th in committee reports. And the Republican minority mounted a partisan filibuster against an independent, bipartisan commission.

That’s what is happening in the Republican Party: a hornet’s nest of conspiracy theories and voter suppression in the states, and a Washington Republican establishment that is too afraid of Donald Trump to stand up for our democracy with conviction.

So look, we Democrats wish a voting rights bill would be bipartisan. By all rights it should be. But the actions in state legislatures like Georgia, Iowa, and Florida were totally partisan. None of these voter suppression laws were passed with bipartisan support. Not one. And Washington Republicans seem dead-set against all remedies, whether it’s S.1, some modified version, or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which Senator McConnell has recently opposed.

So the idea that we can have some kind of bipartisan solution to this partisan attack on democracy befuddles me.

Regrettably, the Democratic Party is the only party standing up for democracy right now.

Next week, the Senate will have this debate. Democrats will bring forward legislation to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy. And we are going to see where everyone stands. Everyone.

 

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