Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Introduction Of S.1., The For The People Act, In The Senate To Combat Voter Suppression Efforts And Re-invigorate American DemocracyMarch 17, 2021
Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the introduction of the For the People Act, to uphold voting rights across the country. Senator Schumer outlined Republicans’ efforts to disenfranchise voters across the country. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Today, Senate Democrats are introducing the number one bill of the 117th Congress, S.1., to stand up to voter suppression, to end dark money in politics, and re-invigorate American democracy in the 21st Century.
Make no mistake: democracy reform must be a top priority of this Congress and I will put S.1. –the For the People Act – on the floor of the Senate.
For too long, we have let really important parts of our democracy wither. Unlimited dark money flows into campaigns, special interests have way too much influence in Washington, and worst of all, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the right of American citizens, particularly people of color, to vote.
Throughout America’s history, we’ve seen a continuous cycle of expansions in our democracy being met, all too often, by vehement backlash from those who wish to maintain an exclusionary status quo.
Earlier this year, we witnessed only the latest example in the form of a violent insurrection right here in this chamber, right here in this Capitol– an attack fueled by the insidious lies of the former president, aimed at overturning the results of a free and fair election.
In the wake of the November election—one of the safest and most secure in modern history—dozens of Republican-led state legislatures have seized on the former president’s big lie and introduced hundreds—hundreds—of bills aimed at tightening voting rules under the nasty guise—the nasty, malicious, and false guise—of election integrity.
These bills, sadly, are aimed at Americans of color: Black Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Despicably, efforts to target these historically-disenfranchised communities has become a central component of the electoral strategy of one of America’s major political parties. Shame on them. Shame. It’s infuriating—infuriating—that they are. When you lose an election, you’re supposed to win over the people you lost, not stop them from voting. That is un-American, autocratic, against the fundamentals of our democracy.
But this is happening in states all across the country, all across the country.
Maybe the most reprehensible effort is underway in Georgia, where state Republicans are trying to limit absentee and mail-in voting, make it harder to post a ballot by drop-box, and disallow early voting on Sundays, a day when many churchgoing African-Americans participate in voter drives. Does anyone on the other side of the aisle think taking away Sunday voting in Georgia is not bigoted? What’s the rationale? Stop it if you want to stand for equality and justice.
Our country has supposedly come a long way since African-Americans in the South were forced to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to vote; but some of these voter suppression laws in Georgia and other Republican states smack of Jim Crow—Jim Crow in the 21st Century, rearing its ugly head once again.
These laws, and their various cousins in Republican state legislatures across the country, are collectively one of the greatest threats to modern American democracy.
According to a recent report in the Washington Post, these laws could strain every available method of voting for tens of millions of Americans, potentially amounting to the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the United States since the end of Reconstruction, when Southern states curtailed the voting rights of formerly enslaved Black men.
If one political party believes “heads we win, tails you cheated”; if one political party believes that when you lose an election, the answer isn’t to win more votes but rather to try to prevent the other side from voting; then we have a serious and existential threat to our democracy on our hands. This isn’t a political dispute. It goes way beyond that, to the core—the core—of what America is all about.
And that’s why we need S.1. so badly, a bill that would combat all of these voter suppression efforts by restoring critical parts of the Voting Rights Act; a bill that would make it easier—not harder—to vote by automatically registering American voters when they get a driver’s license; a bill that would limit dark money and corruption in our politics, and much more.
There are a lot of problems in our country: health care, and climate change, and income inequality. But we designed a democracy that would allow competing interests in our country come together and agree on solutions.
If our democracy doesn’t work, then we have no hope—no hope—of solving any of our other problems.
S.1. is going to be a top priority—this Congress. We will fight and fight and fight to get this done legislatively. Failure is not an option. Too darn much is at stake.