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Schumer Vows to Quickly Advance Next Voting Rights Bill to Senate Floor

October 21, 2021 by Dan McCue
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., leaves a Senate Democratic meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, as a showdown looms with Republicans over raising the debt limit. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON –  Less than 24 hours after Senate Republicans blocked debate on the Freedom to Vote Act, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he’ll advance another voting rights bill to the floor of the chamber as early as next week.

However, he did not say whether he also intends to do away with the filibuster, the Senate procedure that has enabled opponents of the voting measures to block their passage.

With the filibuster in place, the Democrats have to secure 10 Republican votes to pass legislation. 

Without it, the Democrats could pass the next voting measure, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, by a simple majority vote.

“Yesterday this chamber had an opportunity to begin debate on protecting the voting rights of American citizens,” Sen. Schumer said in floor remarks Thursday morning. “That right—essential to any democracy—is under attack in ways we have not seen in generations.

“Despite the obvious danger, Senate Republicans crushed any opportunity this chamber had to even begin a debate on the Freedom to Vote Act,” he continued.

“We didn’t ask Republicans to sign their names to any policy; we simply asked them to come to the table so the Senate can work as intended. And they refused,” Schumer added, calling the resistance across the aisle an “implicit endorsement” of the “horrid new voter suppression and election subversion laws passed in conservative states across the country.”

“But despite Republican opposition, the fight to protect our democracy is far from over in the United States Senate. Voting rights are too precious, too fundamental to abandon because of obstruction from the minority,” he said.

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court invalidating provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder

Among the invalidated provisions was an enforcement mechanism that prevented states from making changes to voting laws and practices if they have a history of voting discrimination, unless they clear those changes through federal officials.

In Shelby, the Supreme Court ruled that the formula for deciding which states and localities have a history of voting discrimination (and were therefore required to pre-approve changes in voting laws and practices) was outdated and therefore unconstitutional. 

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would modernize the formula determining which states and localities have a pattern of discrimination; it would require election officials to publicly announce all changes to voting rules or election procedures at least 180 days before an election; and it would expand the government’s authority to send federal observers to any jurisdiction where there may be a substantial risk of discrimination at the polls on Election Day or during an early voting period.

The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., on Aug. 17, 2021, and it passed the House on a party line vote of 219-212 just days later.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., earlier this month.

“The question now before the Senate is how we will find a path forward on protecting our freedoms in the 21st century,” Schumer said.

“The members of this chamber can take inspiration from great patriots of the past who put country over party. Or they can cross their arms and watch as our 240 year old experiment in democracy falls prey to the specters of authoritarian control,” he concluded.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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