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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks In Advance Of Tomorrow’s Vote On Whether To Begin Debate On The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Washington, D.C. –  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor in advance of tomorrow’s vote to begin debate on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last night I took the necessary procedural steps to set up a vote on Wednesday in the Senate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Tomorrow, the Senate is going to take a first vote on whether or not we debate—merely debate—a bill to reinstate the preclearance provisions of the voting rights act, which has had long, bipartisan support in this chamber, bipartisan support in the past.

Our democracy relies on the guarantee of free and fair elections to survive. But across the country we are witnessing a coordinated assault on the right to vote and even on how elections are conducted, tallied, and potentially decided, a true threat to the ultimate foundation of our democracy.

In the past, preclearance helped put a check on the worst abuses from the states. But a conservative majority on the Supreme Court in 2013, in one of the worst decisions in recent memory, effectively crippled preclearance, wrongly suggesting that it was no longer needed. We see how wrong that decision was in the years since 2013 and particularly now. 

Boy were they wrong: in the years since that decision, the floodgates have opened for some of the most draconian restrictions to the franchise that we’ve seen since the era of segregation.

The clock is ticking for the Senate to stop these attacks: starting next year state legislatures will return to session and many will surely build on the flurry of restrictive laws we’re already seeing in states like Georgia and Texas.

So if there is any issue that deserves debate in this chamber, it should be protecting voting rights.

The Voting Rights Act has long enjoyed bipartisan support in this chamber: Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush all signed into law updates to the legislation. In fact, many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle proudly previously worked on – and supported – passage of those updates, including preclearance provisions. It should be no different today.

For months, Senate Democrats have bent over backwards to find common ground with Republicans on the critical issue of protecting the freedom to vote. We have urged Senate Republicans to engage, to offer their ideas, to come together to guarantee free and fair elections to all Americans.

I have made clear time and time again: Democrats are open for business – we want Republicans to engage. I am prepared to offer an open and honest and full-fledged process here on the Senate floor, where Republican amendments will be made in order and allowed and debated.

But for that to happen, Republicans must come to the table when we vote tomorrow. We can’t force so much as a debate if at least 10 Republicans don’t join us and vote in favor of letting the Senate do its work on this most important—this most vital—of issues.

Senate Republicans shouldn’t be afraid of merely starting debate on an issue we’ve long debated in this body and long supported in a bipartisan way in the past. If they have different ideas on how to achieve a stronger democracy, they owe it to the American people to come forward and debate their ideas.

Simply standing silent with their arms crossed, refusing to allow the Senate to function, is unacceptable.