Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Republican obstruction of John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and vowed to continue fighting to defend democracy. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday was a sad day in the Senate, because for the fourth time this year the Senate had an opportunity to begin debate on the right to vote.
But yet again, virtually every Senate Republican denied the Senate a chance to act as the world’s greatest deliberative body. They filibustered the mere opportunity to debate an issue that has a long, bipartisan history in the Senate.
There was one bright note, one brave, courageous exception. I want to thank my colleague the Senator from Alaska, Senator Murkowski, for voting in favor of beginning debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And I thank my Democratic colleagues—so many, but particularly Senators Leahy and Durbin—for spending weeks working with her to find a compromise.
Senate Democrats want to find a bipartisan way forward on the issue of voting rights. That’s why we worked with Senator Murkowski.
But ultimately it is up to Republicans to come to the table and join us.
We have been trying to convince them for months—for months. This has not been a rush.
We have offered four reasonable proposals in an attempt to merely begin debate—in June, in August, in October, and now here in November. At no point did we call on Republicans to support our policies only, just agree to deliberate, say what you think, and—maybe—we could have come to an agreement on something so important, as the Senate has always done in the past on this issue, bipartisan.
Off the floor, we held public hearings, numerous group discussions, and countless one-on-one meetings with the other side, including talks led by no less than seven Senate Democrats: Senators Manchin, Kaine, Tester, King, Durbin, Klobuchar, Leahy. And there were more I’m sure.
At virtually every turn, we have been met with resistance. What has happened to the Party of Lincoln? What has happened to that noble, noble view that voting rights is important on both sides of the aisle?
The Senate is capable of far more than what we have seen from our Republican colleagues on voting rights. Throughout our history our predecessors used regular order, debate, and compromise to pass transformative legislation: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, and of course the Voting Rights Act.
But anyone who has served in this chamber over recent years knows that the gears of the Senate have become stiff and slow to turn. Who thinks that the original Social Security Act would have passed this partisan chamber today? Or any New Deal legislation? If we were trying to create Medicare from scratch in 2021, who thinks that it would have survived a filibuster?
The same chamber responsible for those great, noble accomplishments in the past must be restored so it can take action in the modern era.
As I said a few weeks ago, I believe the Senate needs to be restored to its rightful status as the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Debate is central to this chamber’s character. But so is governing. So is taking action, when required, after debate has run its due course.
The fight is far from over. Democrats will explore alternative paths to restore the Senate so it does what its framers intended: debate, deliberate, comprise, and vote.
Just because Republicans will not join us to defend our democracy doesn’t mean Democrats will stop fighting. It’s too important. Even if it means going at it alone, we will continue to fight for voting rights and find an alternative path forward, to get the Senate working again to protect our fundamental liberties as citizens.