Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor in advance of filing cloture on the motion to proceed to the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, setting up a vote for Wednesday. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
The fight to protect our democracy from voter suppression and election subversion continues in the United States Senate.
Later this evening, I will file cloture on the motion to proceed to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, setting up a vote to take place on Wednesday.
This bill, which my friends Senators Leahy and Durbin worked assiduously to put together, will restore the key protections of the Voting Rights Act—the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Era—that were wrongly gutted in one of the worst decisions the Supreme Court has made in a long time, in 2013: the Shelby decision, done by a conservative majority on the Court.
Specifically, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update the pre-clearance protections that prohibited states with records of voter suppression from making changes to election law without federal approval.
Recent history makes absolutely clear that we need these protections on the books: thanks to the Shelby decision, we now live in an era of increased voter suppression in the United States. After that decision, states like Texas and North Carolina sadly sprang into action to make it harder for minority, younger, and lower-income people to vote. Many more states followed years later, and we are suffering the consequences of that decision to this day. A few of the Justices had thought, I believe, that we didn't need these pre-clearances because there's no more voter discrimination. Lord, were they wrong. We must reverse their awful Shelby decision.
If there is anything that merits debate here in the Senate, it is protecting the precious right of Americans to participate in our elections. Since its original passage, the Voting Rights Act has been updated five times, five times with support from both Democrats and Republicans! We should likewise proceed this time around on this time-honored measure.
I want to make clear: if the Senate votes to proceed onto the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I am prepared to offer a full-fledged debate befitting this great chamber. Republicans will be given the chance to raise their objections, to offer amendments, and make changes to the bill. I know that both parties have serious disagreements on this important issue, so we want to hear from the other side what they propose.
But for that to happen, we need to start debate first. We need to vote to allow the Senate to work through its process. We need 60 votes simply to say we will debate this issue. We will get a chance to see what happens this week.
Time is really getting short for the Senate to take action on voting rights before Americans go to the polls in the 2022 elections. It is essential that we restore pre-clearance protections before the start of next year, when states are set to consider another round of restrictive voting rights laws when their legislative sessions start in the spring. Indeed, the dangerous and draconian Republican laws we’ve seen in 2021 are only the beginning if this body doesn’t take action. And they are a serious, very serious threat to our democracy, one of the greatest threats to democracy that's come around in a long time.
So I hope both parties will proceed on legislation that’s long enjoyed bipartisan support in this chamber. Our democracy demands we act.