Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Voting Rights Legislation

August 11, 2021

Now, even at this late hour and before the conclusion of this session, this chamber is going to take one more step in the fight to protect voting rights in this country.


In a moment, I will move to discharge the Rules Committee from further consideration of the For the People Act—a vehicle for the Senate to have a debate on voting rights. It is my intention that the first amendment to the bill would be the text of a compromise bill that a group of Senators are working on.


Let me be very clear: this is a debate the Senate must have. In America today, we are witnessing the most sweeping and coordinated attacks on voting rights since the era of Jim Crow.


Reactionary Republican legislatures are making it harder for poorer, younger, and nonwhite Americans to vote, while at the same time making it easier for partisan actors to steal an election.


Senate Democrats are not going to stand by while this happens. We're going to fight to protect the sacred right to vote.


Now, before I make my motion, I yield to my colleague and friend from West Virginia.


[Sen. Manchin delivered remarks]


I thank my friend for his dedication to finding a way forward on this critical issue.


And now, pursuant to rule S.Res.27, the Rules Committee being tied on the question of reporting, I move to discharge the Rules Committee from further consideration of S. 1, For the People Act of 2021.


And for the information of the Senate, it is my intention the first amendment to the bill would be the text of the compromise bill that a group of senators are working on.


[The Senate voted 50-49 to discharge the Rules Committee from further consideration of S.1, For the People Act of 2021.]


And now, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to immediate consideration of S.2093, For the People Act of 2021.


[Sen. Cruz objected]


Mr. President, the Republican minority just prevented the Senate from even having a debate—a debate, just that—on voting rights in this country.


I understand that my Republican colleagues don’t approve of every aspect of the Democratic bill to protect voting rights. But surely there are areas where our two parties can find some agreement.


Partisan gerrymandering, for instance, has plagued our country for too long. It skews our democracy towards the extremes. It strips the American people of their right to have a truly representative government.


Voters ought to pick their politicians, not the other way around. But in so many states, partisan legislators draw maps that artificially maximize the number of seats that the majority party will win.


Some districts are so safe that the most extreme candidates can run and win with hardly any competition. Surely, my Republican colleagues would agree that partisan gerrymandering deserves a debate on the Senate floor. It’s a small part of S.1, but one that has broad universal support—and the support, by the way, of all 49 of my Democratic colleagues.


So I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S.2670, Calendar 119, the Redistricting Reform Act of 2021.


[Sen. Cruz objected]


So, the American people should understand: Republicans just blocked the Senate from even debating legislation to end partisan gerrymandering and make our Congress more representative of the people.


Surely our Republican colleagues, however, would agree that billions of dollars in anonymous campaign donations every year is not a function of a healthy democracy. Surely they must agree that America’s representatives should have only one boss—the people—not the special interests.


So I’m going to ask the Senate now to debate a simple measure to bring a much-needed transparency to campaign donations—just transparency, not even limits, although I would certainly support those.


At the very least, the American people deserve to know who is trying to influence their representatives and how strenuously.


So I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of S.2671, DISCLOSE Act of 2021, which has the support of our entire caucus.


[Sen. Cruz objected]


In conclusion, before I turn it over to some of my colleagues: Democrats just tried to do something very simple: we asked the Senate to start debate – just debate – on legislation to protect voting rights and strengthen our democracy. Republicans said no.


Democrats asked to debate a measure just to prevent partisan gerrymandering.


And frankly, in my colleague’s response, he was all over the lot: it’s good to have politicians do it; it’s not good to have politicians do it. It’s good to have judges do it; it’s not good to have judges do it. We would set standards to make that in a state like Wisconsin—where 53 percent of the people voted for a Democratic member of the state assembly—only a third of the districts were Democratic, drawn by a Republican legislature.


So Republicans have said no, they don’t even want to debate these issues.


Democrats asked to debate a measure to bring much-needed transparency to campaign donations and get special interest dark money out of politics. Republicans—still—said no.


Let there be no mistake about what is going on here. We have reached a point in this chamber where Republicans appear to oppose any measure, any measure—no matter how commonsense—to protect voting rights and strengthen our democracy.


Let there be no mistake, both inside this chamber and outside of it: Republicans have formed a wall, a total wall, of total opposition against progress on voting rights in the United States Senate. Even on an issue as sacred as the right to vote, Senate Republicans refuse to allow even a debate. They’re afraid to debate it.


Yesterday morning, we saw what it looks like when the Senate comes together. This is what it looks like when it doesn’t. Apparently, there are very serious and important limits to bipartisanship. There are some issues where Republicans refuse to join us in good faith to make progress for our country.


I never thought I’d see the day when voting rights, which used to be supported in a bipartisan way as recently as 2006, would be one of those issues. But that’s what we have come to: total Republican intransigence when it comes to simple measures to make our democracy more perfect and strengthen the hand of the individual voter.


Now let me be clear: Republicans refusing to support anything on voting rights is not an excuse for Democrats to do nothing. In recent weeks, I have met with a number of Democratic Senators, Senators Klobuchar and Merkley, Manchin and Warnock and Padilla, Kaine, King, and Tester to discuss a compromise voting rights bill. We have made a great deal of progress on that legislation. We had a very good meeting as recently as yesterday afternoon. And we intend to rally around it.


So tonight, I’m filing cloture on a vehicle to allow the Senate to take up the compromise voting rights bill.


Voting rights—voting rights—will be the first matter of legislative business when the Senate returns to session in September.


Our democracy demands no less.


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