tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN January 18, 2022 11:59am-5:31pm EST
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to gavel in to begin their legislative session. lawmakers are scheduled to take up voting rights legislation today. chuck schumer plans to have hold a vote to advance the legislation this coming wednesday but that's likely to call short of the 60 votes needed. senate democrats are expected to consider a change to filibuster rules. you'rewatching live coverage of the senate you're on c-span2 . >>
accompany h.r. 5746. the president pro tempore: the senator is correct. smoip i ask that the chair lay before the senate the house message to accompany h.r. 5746. the president pro tempore: the question is on the motion. to lay before the senate a message from the house. although in favor say aye. opposed no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the motion is agreed to. and the clerk will report. the clerk: resolved, the house agreed to the amendment of the senate to bill h.r. 5746 entitled an act to amend title 51 united states doad extend the authority of is the national aeronautics and space administration to enter into leases of nonaccess property of the administration with an amendment. mr. schumer: i move to concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 5746.
i move to concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 5746 with an amendment. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report. with an amendment. the clerk: senator from new york, mr. schumer, moves to concur the house amendment to the senate amendment with an amendment numbered 4903. mr. schumer: i ask that further reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: mr. president, i ask for the yeas and nays on the motion to concur with an amendment. the president pro tempore: is there sufficient second? there appears to be a sufficient second. the yeas and nays are ordered. mr. schumer: mr. president, i have an amendment to amendment number -- to i have an amendment to the amendment which is at the desk. the president pro tempore: clerk will report. the clerk: senator from new york, mr. schumer, proposes an amendment number 4904 to
amendment number 4903. mr. schumer: i ask that the further reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: i move to refer the house message to aaccompany h.r. 5746 to the committee on rules with instructions to report back forth withwith an amendment. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: the senator from new york, mr. schumer, the house message to a i company 5746 to the committee on rules with instructions to report back forthwith, with an amendment, number 4905. shoip i ask further reading be dispensed wsm. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: i ask for the yeas and nays. the president pro tempore: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be a sufficient second. the yeas and nays are ordered. mr. schumer: i have an amendment to the instructs at the desk. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from new york, mr. schumer, proposes amendment 4906 to the
instructions of the motion to refer. mr. schumer: i ask that further reading of the amendment be dispensed. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: i ask that further reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: i ask for the yeas and nays. the president pro tempore: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be a sufficient second. the yeas and nays are ordered. mr. schumer: i have an amendment to the amendment which is at the desk. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from new york, mr. schumer, proposed 4907 to amendment number 4906. mr. schumer: i ask that further reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: i send a cloture motion to the motion to concur to the desk. the president pro tempore: without objection. the clerk will report the cloture motion. the clerk: cloture motion, we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, do hereby move to bring to a close debate on motion to concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 5746, an act to amend title 51, united states
code, and so forth, signed by 17 senators as followed. mr. schumer: i ask consent the reading of the names be waived. the president pro tempore: without objection, so ordered. mr. schumer: mr. president. the president pro tempore: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: before i begin the substance of my remarks, i want to offer a few woferredz in reaction to the -- words in reaction to the terrible hostage situation in weekend in texas. saturday's hostage crisis at congregation beth israel was a horrifying reminder that the ancient poison of anti-semitism continues to this day. i'm relieved that all of the hostages made it out alive, and i commend the quick thinking of the first responders. and of rabbi charlie cytron walker who acted valiantly and
all those present for bringing this crisis to an end. moving forward, we must get to the bottom of what inspired the terrorist attack on saturday, but increase our vigilance against all forms of anti-semitism and racially motivated violence. here in congress, we must continue working to increase our investment in nonprofit security grants to group who are targets of hate. we need to give with our communities the tools they need to protect themselves so they can live without -- so they can live without fear of being targeted for just who they are. on this day, i stand in solidarity with the congregation of beth israel, the jewish community of greater dallas-fort worth, and with all jewish americans for whom saturday's attack was a traumatic reminder of the hate we have yet to overcome.
mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. now, mr. president, this is on defending democracy. the eyes of the nation will be watching what happens this week in the united states senate. just a few days removed from what would have been dr. martin luther king jr.'s 93rd birthday, the senate has begun the debate
on the freedom to vote act and the john lewis voting rights advancement act. for the first time -- the first time in this congress -- democrats have tried for months to hold a voting rights debate on the floor. but we have been blocked each time by republicans. we brought commonsense proposals four times on the floor of the senate, and only once did one senator, lisa murkowski, to her credit, agree to even begin debate on voting rights. on all three other votes, not a single republican joined us. every one of them voted to block even a deebl on -- a debate on voting rights. so today, we are taking this step by using a message from the house. now, it's just a step, but an important step moving forward in that we will finally debate this one issue that is so central to the american people, to our history, and to our democracy.
as we debate these measures, the senate will confront a critical question -- shall the members of this chamber do what is necessary to pass these bills and bring them closer to the president's desk? today we have just taken the first steps that will put everyone, everyone on the record. now, much has been said over the past few days about the prospects of passing voting rights legislation in this chamber. senate democrats are under no illusion that we face difficult odds, especially when virtually every senate republican -- every senate republican -- is staunchly against legislation pro teghting the right to -- protecting the right to vote. but i want to be clear -- when this chamber confronts a question this important, one so vital to our country, so vital to our ideals, so vital to the future of our democracy, you
don't slide it off the table and say never mind. win, lose or draw, members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, especially on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as voting rights. and the public, the public is entitled to know where each senator stands on an issue as sacrosanct' defending our democracy. the american people deserve to see that you are senators go on record on whether they will support these bills or oppose them. indeed, that may be the only way to make progress on this issue now, for the public to see where each of us in this chamber stands. the public deserves to see it, and that's exactly, precisely what the senate is going to do this week. and make no mistake about it, using dr. king as an inspiration democrats will continue to fight
on this issue until we succeed. and i believe history will vindicate us. mr. president, the fight over voting rights is as old as the republic itself. recently -- well, let me say, when the republic was founded in many states you had to be a white male, protestant property owner to vote. as is obvious, by who's in this chamber, we have made progress, inexorable progress in expanding that franchise. history does not regard those restrictions that occurred early on as worthy. but we must continue the fight. we have not reached the place where every person can vote easily and openly and honestly. so, we have to keep it up.
i've been reading the biography of ulysses s. grant by ron chernow. the number one thing the southern segregations wanted to take away from the newly freed slaves was the right to vote. segregationists back then knew that if recently freed black slaves didn't have the right to vote in the south, they'd have no power at all. no power over laws, over resources, over the future of the country, and that was the number one thing segregationists wanted to prevent, the right of the newly freed slaves to vote. it's why a century later, dr. king made a direct appeal to congress for actingen on -- acting on voting rights. give us the ballot, he said in 1957, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our bank rights. give us the blood, and all other rights will follow. with the ballot, he argued, voters could end the worst of
racial segregation. they could elect good men and good women to government. they could subdue the dangers of the mob and keep democracy alive but the ballot had to come first. the ballot had to come first. dr. king might as well have been speaking to us, because across the united states in 2022 ballot access is not being expanded, it's being repressed, and our democracy is not safe, it is under attack. a year ago, a violent mob, incited by the president and his big lie, attacked this very building in order to reverse the results of a free and fair election. last week, for the first time the department of justice announced sedition charges against a number of the rioters that were here that day. a year later, at least 19 states have passed 33 laws that make it harder for people to vote, using
the big lie, the big lie, as false as it is, as a justification. those states together are home to 55 million americans, and new laws are certainly coming once the state legislatures return to session this year. and the kind of violence, the threats of violence we saw on january 6 by that insurrectionist mob is now being threatened increasingly against countless election workers across the country. just this weekend the "houston chronicle" reported that, quote, county officials in urban areas across the state of texas say they've been forced to reject an unprecedented number of mail ballot applications thanks to the new republican voter suppression law. and this past saturday, donald trump once again repeated the same conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that have
paved the way for voter suppression at the state level. so, unfortunately, mr. president, the dangers that face our democracy are alive and well, and the laws that suppress the vote at the state level are being enacted on a partisan basis. we have seen periods of regression in terms of voting rights and equality and fairness to people of color. we have seen regression occur, and this seems to be a period of regression in what the legislatures are doing, and fight it we must. so the senate must act. we must step in and act. we must do everything to pass voting rights legislation, just as this chamber has done in the past, just as the constitution permits us to do. that is why we will vote this week on the freedom to vote act and the john lewis voting rights advancement act. and if republicans choose to continue the filibuster -- they are filibuster of voting rights
legislation, we must consider and vote on the rule changes that are appropriate and necessary to restore the senate and make voting legislation possible. as i've recounted already, these laws are urgently needed. we must not -- we cannot allow another period of that regression, which we have seen throughout american history. here's what some of the laws would do. the two laws would do. they would set basic commonsense standards for all americans for access to the ballot as well as restore preclearance provisions that were passed by this chamber for decades on a bipartisan basis. they would establish clear and consistent standards for early voting across the country and make it easier for voters to access absentee ballots. they would protect election workers from unlawful intimidation. we are seeing so many of that now. it's disgraceful.
they would end the toxic practice of partisan gerrymandering and they would take new steps to fight the power of dark money corroding our elections. senate democrats repeatedly tried over the last year to bring republicans to the table to debate these issues. i will remind my colleagues that this is not the old republican party. i would remind the american people how dramatically the republican party has regressed. the republican party used to be one that supported voting rights. presidents reagan, george h.w. bush and george w. bush worked to renew voting rights bills. no, sadly, unfortunately, this is donald trump's republican party, and it is the one now trying to take away the vote from younger black and brown, elderly, minority, and low-income voters.
and yet every time we try to engage our senate republican colleagues, they resisted, so we have no choice. we are moving ahead on our own. once again, no one denies the path ahead is an uphill struggle. republicans have been clear they will entertain no bipartisan compromise on vote being rights. but -- on voting rights. but long odds are no excuse for this chamber to avoid this important issue. again, members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote. we're going to vote. we're all going to go on the record, and republicans will have to choose which side they stand on -- protecting democracy or offering their implicit endorsement of donald trump's big lie. for months, senate republicans have come up with excuses and subterfuge a void doing what they know is the right thing, just like so many others have come up with similar lame excuses and subterfuges in the
past. but as history shows, doing the right thing will eventually prevail. justice will flow like mighty waters, as the prophet amos has said. the direction of voting rights in america is enough to shake the faith of even the most optimistic champion of democracy. sometimes it seems like for each step forward the country takes two steps back. but fights like this are not unusual in american history. the story of our country has been a long, arduous march towards expanding the promise of freedom for all americans. we find ourselves in such a struggle today. dr. king had simple, powerful advice for his followers during the moments like this -- keep moving, keep fighting. the road to justice is often
painful and full of setback, but we must keep moving. we must keep moving, he said, against every obstacle and prodigious hilltop and mountain of opposition. let nothing slow you down. and even after you cross the red sea to find yourself in the desert, just keep moving forward through the wilderness. and if you will do that with dignity, he said, when the history books are written in the future, historians will have to look back and say, there lived a great people. we will keep fighting in the same spirit to protect our democracy in this day and age. if we do that, i have faith that one day the history books will like weiss look back on -- likewise look back on this generation of americans and conclude, there lived a great people, too. i yield the floor. mr. leahy: mr. president?
the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, i applaud the remarks of our distinguished majority leader. i know it comes from the heart because what he is saying publicly, he's also always said both publicly and privately. and i also join with him in the condemnation of the attack on the synagogue this weekend. i know in my state of vermont the faith community -- jewish, protestant, catholic -- all came together with prayers for the safety of the people in the synagogue. but more than just the safety of what happened then, let us pray, all of us, whatever faith we have, that such attacks do not continue in our country. we've seen too many attacks against people based on their religion or based on their race or based on their country of
origin. that's wrong. in this country, this country especially -- i was thinking of this when i led the senate this morning in the pledge of allegiance. one nation, under god, indivisible, liberty and justice for all -- well, it's a constant battle to make sure of that liberty and justice for all. and we have to do that. and that leads us to where we are today, mr. president. we have got to stand up and say people can vote. i remember being here and present when the voting rights act was signed by president reagan, president george h.w. bush, and president george w. bush. i remember the pleasure on their face, the look of everybody around them -- republicans and
democrats -- applauding the president for signing that legislation. why did they applaud? why did republicans and democrats applaud? because we'd all voted for it, because we all believed in a person's right to vote. you know, mr. president, i'm the only democrat ever elected to the u.s. senate from the state of vermont, and i remember my first two elections, which were quite close. 90% -- i would say approximately 90% of the election machinery, those that count the ballots and what not, were controlled by republicans, but i had faith in getting through because i knew two things -- one, they could count and, two,
they were totally honest. and while i'm sure the vast majority of them voted for my opponent, an honorable person, they counted the ballots and they said what they were, so much so that there was a recount in my second election it was so close, and i remember one of the republican lobbying groups sent out a fund-raiser saying we have to fight the democratic-controlled election machinery of vermont. i reminded the election machinery, 250 town clerks, 80% to 90% of whom were republicans. i said again, they can count and they're honest. we're fortunate in our state
that we encourage everybody to vote. and i remember when the senators in the other party on the judiciary committee said, well, you want -- you want to change the rules so the democrats would win. i said, we want nationally the kind of rules we follow in vermont. and, by the way, last year's election we elected a republican governor and a democratic lieutenant governor. why? because our rules do not favor one party over the other. our rules favor one thing -- the right to vote. we insist on that in our state of vermont. but we should insist on that throughout the country. it should not be the case where somebody can be -- where
somebodiing can blocked from voting because the voting booths and the places for them are changed so that some communities would have a harder time, a more difficult time to come there, or hours changed. no, we should be fighting -- if we want america to be the strong, great nation that we all claim it is and we all believe it is and we all want it to be, it can only be if we say, make sure everybody gets to vote, everybody. i don't care who they are voting for. make sure everybody can vote. because what happens when people are blocked from voting is voting drops off, people lose faith in their government. if we lose faith in our government, we lose faith in our country, this wonderful experiment in democracy, as some
called it, fails. we can't have that, mr. president. we can't have that. so i look back on my 48 years here in the senate, and i think of -- it's not the title, it's not the chairmanships, it's not the president pro tempore, it's not being dean of the senate that i cherish. it's knowing that i can vote. i can vote. i voted 17,000 times, more than that now. and i go back over all those votes and find some that i think, gee, i should have voted differently. but i can vote. i call on my colleagues, vote up or down. i would hope that all of us would do as we have in the past when we passed the voting rights
act. let's go back to that time. vote any way you want in a presidential election. vote any way you want in a gubernatorial local elections. but in this body, this body which should be the conscience of the nation, vote to uphold the right to vote. vote to allow every american the ability to vote. don't hide behind procedure. stand on the floor, have the courage and the honesty to say, i'm going to vote to allow people to vote or i'm going to vote not to allow people to vote. but stand here and say what you're going to do. the last time 98 of us stood here we wanted everybody to vote
, we joined together. wouldn't that send a wonderful signal to a fractured nation if we did that today and stood up and said, we're going to vote. we're all going to vote. we're going to vote yes or no, but we're going to let people of our state know how we voted, we're going to let the american people know how we voted. we'll say why vietnam. i would wish we vote as we did before to all americans -- republicans, democrats, independents, any part of this country -- we want you to vote. we'll urge you to vote the way we'd like, but we want you to have the ability to vote even if you are vietnaming -- votes for our opponents or for a different point of view. the most important thing as
congress democrats have tried for months to hold a voting rights debate on the floor. but we have been blocked each time by republicans. we brought commonsense proposals four times on the floor of the senate, and only once did one senator, lisa murkowski, to her credit, agree to even begin debate on voting rights. all three other votes, not a single republican joined us. everyone of them voted to block even a debate on voting rights. so today we're taking this step by using a message from the house. now it's just a step, but an important step moving forward in that we will finally debate this one issue that is so central to the american people, to our history, and to our democracy. as we debate these measures, the senate will confront a critical
question. shall the members of this chamber do what is necessary to pass these bills and bring it closer to the president to best? e leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. ms. hirono: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: yesterday we celebrated martin luther king jr. day and honored civil rights leaders who fought against inequality and sacrificed so much to move our country closer towards justice for all. but this year, on a day when we should be coming together to commemorate the civil rights
achievements and recommit to the road ahead, we are instead fighting a battle we thought was won decades ago. in 1957, martin luther king jr. delivered his, give us the ballot address, where he said, quote, the denial of the sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition, end quote. but here we are in 2022, fighting back against hundreds of bills introduced in states across the nation, clearly intended to make it so much harder for certain people to vote. 22 states have already enacted 47 new laws that make it more difficult to vote by mail, that make it harder to stay on voting lists, that limit the availability of drop boxes for
ballots, that limit the number of polling locations, that impose stricter or newer voter i.d. requirements. and the list goes on. but one of the most insidious is georgia's law which allows any person to challenge the rights of an unlimited number of voters to cast their ballots. if someone decides for whatever reason to challenge another person's right to vote, the voter then has to show up to their election office to defend themselves. imagine being a single mom working two jobs and unable to afford child care, and now she has to defend her constitutional right just because someone thought she shouldn't be voting at all. volunteers are already being recruited to pose these challenges. this isn't voter protection.
this is vigilantism. these laws are clearly intended to target communities of color and make it harder for them to vote. period. our country's legacy of racial discrimination in voting is undeniable, and it's undeniable that we are witnessing history repeat itself. in 1890, the house passed historic legislation that would have increased voting protections, particularly for black voters, but the senate failed to take up this legislation, failed to act at a critical time when it had the chance. and the results were devastating for decades to come. the senate's failure to take up this legislation allowed jim crow and the plummeting of voter turnout among black voters to continue for more than a century. until the the senate passed the
civil rights act of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965, over 70 years later. a recent "washington post" analysis said this current wave of voter suppression bills potentially amounts to, quote, the most sweeping contraction of ballot access in the united states since the end of reconstruction, end quote. today these attacks on our freedom to vote are taking us back to the time of reconstruction. we cannot wait another 70 years for the so-called deliberative body to act, which is why we need to pass comprehensive voter protection legislation. but not a single republican supports the freedom to vote john lewis act. many of my republican colleagues have joined congressman john lewis to commemorate the march
from selma to montgomery, but today they won't even allow the senate to consider legislation named in his honor and have called this bill radical. there is nothing radical about protecting a person's freedom to vote. what's radical is sending us back to the days of reconstruction. this legislation would restore and strengthen the voting rights act, which congress reauthorized with broad bipartisan support five times, in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and it passed 98-0 in 2006, which included ten currently sitting senate republicans. this bill would also expand opportunities to vote, prevent voter suppression and improve
election security. we're talking about provisions that would require states to offer early voting and no-excuse vote by mail, make election day a public holiday, crack down on voter intimidation, and require postelection audits. again, i ask, how is any of this radical? what's radical is justifying overt attacks on our democracy by perpetuating the big lie of mass voter fraud. for republicans, this fight isn't about election security. it's about securing their power, because republicans have decided that spreading misinformation and rigging elections by preventing people from voting is the only way they will retain their power. republicans should come to the senate floor and tell the american people why they won't
protect our freedom to vote. instead the republican leader came to the floor to attack democrats for fighting to change senate rules to pass this critical legislation. calling it a power grab. the republican leader said that democrats want to, quote, permanently damage this institution, end quote. he went on to say the filibuster is, quote, about compromise and moderation, end quote. this from the republican leader who refers to himself as the grim reaper. as he prevents dozens of house-passed bills from being considered on the senate floor. the same person who single handedly prevented president obama from filling a vacancy of a supreme court for over a year, denying the will of nearly 66 million americans who
voted to give president obama a second term in office. the same person who pushed through president trump's supreme court nominee as over 159 million americans were in the process of voting. so much for compromise and moderation. let's not pretend this is about the sanctity of this institution. we cannot sit back and let one political party continue to unravel democracy one voter suppression bill at a time. while republicans do nothing to protect our freedom to vote in the face of mass voter suppression bills enacted across the country, we democrats cannot sit back and let 2020 be the last free and fair election in our country. if we don't protect the right to vote, we won't have a
democracy. it's that simple. that's the reality. since the republicans will not lift a finger to protect voting rights, we have no option but to change the senate rules in order to pass the freedom to vote john r. lewis act. this is something that every single democratic senator needs to get on board with. mr. president, i yield back. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
wouldhave been doctor martin luther king junior's 93rd birthday , the senate has begun to date on the freedom to vote act and john lewis voting rights advancement act. for the first time, the first time in this congress, democrats have tried for months to hold a votingrights debate on the floor that we have been blocked each time by republicans . we build commonsense proposals four times on the floor of the senate and only once did one senator, lisa murkowski to her credit agreed to even begin debate on voting rights. on all three other votes not a single republican joined us . everyone voted to blockeven a debate for voting rights . today we are taking this step by using the message from the house. now it's just a step but an important step moving forward and that we will finally debate this one issue that is so central to the american people, to our history and to our democracy.
as we debate these measures, the senate will confront the critical question. shall the members of this chamber do what is necessary to pass these bills and bring them closer to the president's desk? today we have just taken the first steps that will put everyone on the record . now, much has been said over the past few days about the prospects of passing voting rights legislation in this chamber . senate democrats are under no illusion that we face difficult odds especially when virtually every senate republican, every senate republican is staunchly against legislation protecting the right to vote. but i want to be clear. when this chamber confronts a question this important, when one so vital to our country, so vital to our ideas, though vital to the future of our democracy, you don't live it off the table and say
nevermind . win, lose or draw members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote especially on an issue as vital to the beating heartof our democracy as voting rights . and the public, the public is entitled to know where each senator stands on an issue as sacrosanct as defending our democracy . the american people deserve to see their senators go on record on whether they will support these bills or oppose them. indeed, that may be the only way to make progress on this issue now. for the public to seewhere each of us in this chamber stands . the public deserves to see it and that's precisely what the senate is going to do this week. and make no mistake about it. using doctor king as an inspiration, democrats will continue to fight on this issue until we succeed.
and i believe history will vindicate us. mister president, the fight over voting rights isas old as the republic itself. recently , let me say when the republic was founded in many states you had to be a white male protestants property owner to vote. as is obvious to those in this chamber we have made inexorable progress in expanding that franchise. history does not regard those restrictions early on as worthy. but we must continue to fight . we have not reached a place where every person can vote easily and openly and honestly. so we have to keep it up.
i've been reading the biography of ulysses s grant i ron chernow. the thing they wanted to take away from theslaves was the right to vote . segregationists back then new if recently freed that black slaves didn't have the right to vote in the south they'd have no power at all. no power over laws, over resources, over the future of the country and that was the number one thing segregationists wanted to. the right of the newly freed slaves to vote it's what a century later doctor king made a direct appeal to congress for acting on voting rights . give usabout , he said in 1957 and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. give us the ballot and all other rights will follow. balance, he argued, voters
could end the worst of racial segregation. they could elect good men and women to government. they could subdue the dangers of the mob and keep government alive but the ballot had to come first. the ballot had to come first. doctor king might as well have been speaking to us because acrossthe united states in 2022 ballot access is not being expanded . it's beingrepressed . and our democracy is not safe . it is under attack. a year ago a violent mob incited by the president and his big lie attacked thisvery building to reverse the results of a free and fair election . last week for the first time the department of justice announced sedition charges against anumber of the rioters that were here that day . a year later at least 13
states have passed laws that make it harder for people to vote using the big lie as false as it is as justification. those states together our home to 55 million americans and new laws are certainly coming once the state legislatures returned to session this year. and the kind of violence, the threats of violence we saw on january 6 by that insurrectionist model is now being threatenedincreasingly against countless election workers across the country . just this weekend, the houston chronicle reported that county officials in urban areas across the state of texas they they been forced to reject an unprecedented number of male ballot applications thanks to the new republican voter suppression law and this past saturday donald trump once again repeated the same conspiracy theories about the 20/20 election that have
paved the way for voter suppression at the state level. so unfortunately mister president the dangers that face our democracy are alive and well. and the laws that suppress the vote at the state level are being enacted on a partisan basis . we have seen period's of regression in terms of voting quality and fairnessto people of color . we have seen a progression of her and this seems to be a period of regression in what the legislatures aredoing and fight it we must. so the senate must act . we must step in and act. we must do everything to pass voting rightslegislation just as this chamber has done in the past . just as the constitution permits us to do. that is why we will this week on the freedom to vote act and john lewis voting rights advancement act and if republicans choose to continue the their filibuster
of voting rights legislation we must consider and vote on the rule changes that are appropriate and necessary to restore the senate and make votinglegislation possible . as i've recounted already these laws are urgentlyneeded . we cannot allow another period of that regression which we have seen throughout american history . here's what some of the laws would do. they would set basic common sense standards for all americans for access to the ballot as well as restore free clearance provisions passed by this chamber for decades on a bipartisan basis. they would establish clear and consistent standards for early voting across the country and make it easier for voters to access absentee ballots . they would protect election workers from unlawful intimidation we are seeing so much of that now and it's disgraceful. a wood and a toxic practice
of partisan gerrymandering and they would take new steps to fight the power of dark money that's the routing our elections. senate democrats repeatedly tried over the last we are year to bring republicans to the table to debate these issues . i will remind my colleagues that this is not the old republican party. i would remind the american people how dramatically the republican party as regressed . the republican party used to be one that supported voting rights. presidents reagan, george hw bush and george w. bush worked to renew voting rights bills . though sadly unfortunately, this is donald trump's republican party. and it is the one now trying to take away the vote from younger, black and brown, elderly minority and low income voters.
yet every time we try to engage our senate republican colleagues they resisted. so we have no choice. we are moving ahead on our own. once again, no one denies the path ahead is an uphill struggle. republicans have been clear they will entertain no bipartisan compromise on voting rights but long odds are no excuse for this chamber to avoid this important issue. again, members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote. we're going to vote. are all going to go on the record and republicans will have to choose which side they stand on. protecting democracy or offering their implicit endorsement of donald trump's big lie . or months senate republicans have come up with excuses and subterfuge is to avoid doing what they know is the right thing. just like so many others have come up with similar lame excuses and subterfugeis in the past . but as history shows, doing
the right thing will eventually prevail. justice will flow like mighty waters. as the profit in this has said. the direction of voting rights in enough in america is enough to shakein the faith of even the most optimistic champion of democracy . times it seems like for each step forward the country takes two steps backward. but fights like this are not unusual in american history. the story of our country has been long arduous march towardsexpanding the promise of freedom for all americans . we find ourselves in such a struggle today . doctor king had simple powerful advice for his followers during the moments like this. keep moving. keep fighting. the road to justice is often painful and full of setbacks but we must keep moving.
we must keep moving he said against every obstacle and prodigious hilltop and mountain of opposition. let nothing slow you down and even after you cross the red sea only to find yourself in the desert, just keep moving forward through the wilderness. we will do that with dignity, he said and the history books are written in the future but historians will have to look back and say there lived a great people. we will keep fighting in the same spirit to protect our democracy in this day and age . if we do that i have faith that one day the history books will likewise look back on this generation of americans and conclude there lived a great people to. >> we have got to stand up
and say people can vote. i remember being here when the voting rights act was signed by presidentreagan . president george hw bush and president george bush. i remember the pleasure on their face, the look of everybody around them, republicans and democrats applauding the president for signing that legislation. why did they applaud? why did republicans and democrats applaud? because we all voted for it because we all believed in it a person's right to vote. mister president i'm the only democrat ever elected to the senate in the state of vermont and i remember my first twoelections which were quite close . 90 percent, i would say
approximately 90 percent of the election machinery to counterbalance and whatnot were controlled by republicans. but i had faith because i knew 2 things. one, they could count and 2, they were totallyhonest . and while i'm sure the pressure to vote the vast majority voted for my opponent, and honorable person, they counted the ballots and they said where they were. so much so that there was a recount in my second election and i remember one of the republican lobbying groups saying we have to fight the democratic controlled
election machinery of vermont. and i reminded the election machinery the 250 town clerks 80 to 90 percent of whom were republicans and i said again, they can count and they are honest. we are fortunate in our state that we encourage everybodyto vote . and i remember when the senators of the audio party and our judiciary committee said you want to change the rules so that democrats will win and i said do you want nationally thekind of rules we follow in vermont and by the way , last year's election we elected a republican governor and a democratic lieutenant governor.
why? cause our rules do not favor one party over the other. our rules favor one thing: the right to vote. and we insist on that in our state of vermont but we should insist on that throughout the country . we should not be a case where somebody can be, where somebody can be black because of the voter boots might change so some communities would have a more difficult time. or hours changed. no, we shouldbe fighting. if we want america to be the strong great nation we all claim it is , that we all agree it is, that we all wanted to be and can only be if we say make sure everybody gets a vote. everybody. i don't care who they're voting for.
make sure everybody can vote. because what happens when people are brought blocks from voting and voting drops off, people lose faith in their government. if we lose in our government we lose faith in our country and when we lose faith in our country it's the end of our experiment in democracy fails. we can't have that, mister president. we can'thave that . so i look back in my 40 years in the senate. and i think of it's not the titles, it's not the chairmanship . it's knowing that i can vote. i can vote, i voted 417,000
crow relic declaring that simple majorities should always get their way. ah, but late last week they literally wielded the 60-vote threshold themselves. a useful reminder of just how fake, fake the hysteria has been. we already knew washington democrats don't have any principled opposition to senate rules. democrats repeatedly filibustered the cares act in march of 2020 while insisting on changes. democrats filibustered and
killed senator scott's reform bill. you only have to go back a few years to read vigorous defense of the filibuster from our democratic colleagues and their allies. the democratic whip senator durbin put it this way. we need to protect the right of debate in the senate, preserve checks and balances so that no one party can do whatever it wants. we need to preserve the voice of the minority in america, dick durbin. the democratic leader himself said in 2017 that we need to, quote, find a way to build a firewall around the legislative filibuster. build a firewall around the legislative filibuster. and in a letter that same year by 32 senate democrat, our colleagues demanded, demanded that the 60-vote threshold stay right where it was. so until the last couple of years senators on both sides have understood the senate is
not here to rubber stamp massive changes by thin majorities. this institution exists to do exactly the opposite. to make sure major laws receive major buy-in and have major staying power. and historically democratic allies outside this chamber have recognized this as well. so let's go back about 15 years ago when republicans controlled the senate, the left-wing organization called the leadership conference on civil and human rights published a lengthy statement defending, defending the filibuster, including -- listen to this -- including its relationship to civil rights. here's what they had to say when republicans were in the majority here in the senate. on behalf of the leadership conference on civil rights, the
nation's oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition with more than 180-member organizations, we urge you to oppose, oppose any efforts to eliminate the 216-year-old filibuster in the united states senate. that's a coalition of 180 member organizations called the civil and human rights coalition. ah, they went on. the elimination of the rights of the minority as embodied by the filibuster is contrary to the founding fathers' vision of the senate as a body of equals designed to protect against the tyranny of the majority. this statement continued. the civil rights community has recognized and accepted the value, value of the filibuster, even when it frustrated efforts to advance civil rights legislative goals.
during the 1950's and 1960's, countless civil rights bills were filibustered. the civil rights act of 1964 was not passed until it survived 75 days of the longest filibuster in history, and the senate voted 71-29 to end debate and finally pass the bill. this legislation was enacted because of long, hard work to build support across partisan, ideological and regional lines. we worked to bring americans together, not to push them farther apart. they conclude, we never demanded the end of the system of checks and balances. in the end, we won the battle by changing votes and not, not by breaking the rules. these, mr. president, were left wing activists writing less than 20 years ago. so, let's spell this out.
democrats want the american people to believe the filibuster was not a jim crow relic in 2005. was not even a jim crow relic in 2020. just miraculously became a jim crow relic in 2021. briefly stopped being a jim crow relic last thursday, but it's now back to become a jim crow relic this week. now, to be clear, the partisan election takeover bills that democrats want to ram through this week are not, not in any way successors of the civil rights legislation from the mid 20th century. it has been, is today, and will remain illegal to discriminate against voters anywhere in america because of their race,
period. that's the law. now, targeting americans' online speech and sending government money to political campaigns is not about civil rights, it's about tilting the playing field, weakening widely popular voter i.d. laws and making it harder to produce accurate voter rolls is not about making voter easier, it's about making cheating easier. changing the laws so that our partisan attorney general can rewrite voting laws without even having to win in court is not about promoting justice, it's about short-circuiting justice. this is about one party wanting the power to unilaterally rewrite the rule book of american elections. now, interestingly, the biden administration staff have gone out of their way lately to highlight my, my long, strong
record on real civil rights and real voting rights. the president's secretary explained that i have, quote, a pretty strong record of supporting voting rights. she's right about that. and that's exactly why i have no patience, none, for the unrelated partisan takeover that some democrats are trying to rebrand with that banner. the democratic leader argues that his proposed elections takeover and his efforts to break the senate are last resorts because of new state laws that passed in 2021. he says it's irrelevant that 2020 saw record turnout, and listen to this, 94% said voting was easy because this debate is exclusively about what happened in 2021. but democrats have been pushing these same policy charges and
the same chicken little rhetoric since 2019. a year and a half before the 2020 election. , which democrats now call a high turnout success. the democratic leader gave an interview claiming that evil republicans are trying to attack voting and disenfranchise people. of course, when democrats went op to win the white house, the 2020 election went from presumptively illegitimate to exemplary and unquestionable overnight. around the same time, mid 2019, senator schumer began floating a nuclear attack on senate rules. this is completely untethered from the elections issue. he just thought breaking the rules would make for a livelier stint as majority leader. washington democrats have wanted the power to rewrite the rules for political speech and election laws long, long before
the events that are supposed to justify it. and the democratic leader's effort to break the senate long predates the latest pretext. we have strong disagreements about the substance of these bills, but even more broadly we see decreasing trust in our democracy among both political sides. which have a sitting president of the united states shouting that united states senators are on the side of bull connor and jefferson davis for refusing to shatter the senate. was the senate created to make these kinds of factional fevers worse or to help break the fevers ?r does the senate exist to help narrow majorities double down on divisions or to force broad coalitions to build bridges? this fake hysteria does not prove the senate is obsolete, it
proves the senate is as necessary as ever. republicans have supported this limitation on the majority's power, both when we've been in the minority which these rules protect, and when we've been the majority, which they inconvenience. and last week, some of our colleagues across the aisle reconfirmed they have the courage and the principle to keep their word and to protect the institution as well. but to many of our colleagues across the aisle -- too many of our colleagues across the aisle still want to respond to a 50-50 senate with a rule-breaking power grab. voting to break this institution will not be a free vote or a harmless action, even if their effort fails. an unprincipled attempt at grabbing power is not harmless just because it fails.
voting to break the senate is not cost-free just because a bipartisan majority of your colleagues have the wisdom to stop you. it's amazing that our colleagues are this enthralled to radical activists. we have inflation, a pandemic, rampant, voon crime, a -- violent crime, a border crisis, and possibly a war on the european continent. but rather than work on any of that, senate democrats want to mar their own legacies with a reckless, reckless procedural vote they know will fail, a faction this desperate for up limited short-term power is a -- for unlimited short-term power is a faction that must be denied it.
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. ms. cantwell: madam president, i care about the future of this institution, but right now i care more about the future of our democracy. our country has been the bedrock for democracies around the world. it has been the gold standard by which other countries wishing to achieve transparency and validation of their governments have asked us to come and witness their elections. let's not forget what is great about a democracy. the power rests with the people. and when you have an election it's the people who have spoken. so, whether it was f.d.r. and the new deal or ronald reagan declaring morning in america, the people had spoken, and the country went about the change that was implemented because of free and fair elections. trust me, there are countries who are jealous of this.
they obviously run their countries by other means. they're less stable, and they are less egalitarian. and yet, if we think of the testimony great advantages of a democracy, nothing says it better than the people have spoken. yet now, we have a former president of the united states, donald trump, who has dared to say and continues to say the people haven't spoken. donald trump is not just like the guy at a football game who doesn't like the referee's calls. donald trump has taken it to a whole new level of basically, without evidence, saying his team didn't lose the game. can you imagine nfl or college football structure where the coach says i don't like the ref's call. my team didn't lose the game.
and i'm going to spend the rest of my time going marching around to every football game and every community saying my team didn't lose the game? well, thank god college and professional coaches know better. they don't do this. and yet, former president trump keeps saying i don't like the call of election officials, judges, federal courts, never mind there were 60 decisions by different courts. i'm going to protest the outcome of this election. never in the history of our country do i know a major race where someone declared they really didn't lose. what if everybody went around saying i really didn't lose? what if our system of governments would be affected by that? well, madam president, it is getting to that level of
absurdity. the republican nominee in the 2020 washington gubernatorial election lost by over 600,000 votes. yet, he claimed voter fraud. he lost by 56-43. and even though he lost by such a huge margin, he claimed voter fraud. he sued the secretary of state, who happened to be a republican, in king county superior court. he only dropped the election fraud lawsuit after the court threatened his lawyer with making meritless claims. do we really understand this danger, the danger of people in our country, to our economy, to our way of life if these falsehoods continue? we're not here, though, just because a former president
cannot accept an election loss. he began sowing these seeds of distrust into our election system the minute he stepped onto the national stage. we're here because the problem has become so serious that people are now trying to disenfranchise the voting rights of our fellow americans. some voter suppression tactics are being put in place because some believe the former president did not like the outcome of the election. i want to be clear. there are people on both sides of the aisle that do believe in free and fair elections. there are republicans in key election positions who stood up to the illegal tactics of the president when he tried to change the outcome of the last election. but what our country can't
afford right now is the tngs of -- continuation of trump think to allow to erode the voting rights of our fellow americans. voting rights have been hard fought and hard won. i know the president presiding understands this. first by women in point 20. then -- in 1920. then later, protecting minority groups in 1965 with the voting rights act. in 1970 we updated it helping to regulate presidential elections. in 1975 saying we had to protect minorities. both sides of the aisle agreed to this. in 1992, we expanded for bilingual education requirements. that passed with 75-20 votes. and again in 2006, the last time the voting rights was updated, we were in a similar situation. the supreme court had two cases and struck down part of the act and we all came together to
renew and reaffirm the constitutional protections for people in the united states of america. it passed 98-0. there is nothing wrong with the john lewis voting rights law before us. there's nothing wrong with the john lewis voting rights law before us. it is a bill with bipartisan support that tries to maintain, i think, a federal minimum assurance that states don't suppress the rights of our fellow americans. when martin luther king was fighting this fight, he said one man, one vote. he knew that this was about making sure that everybody had a chance to vote. the john lewis act is a
continuation of that act understand is upgrading something that has been upgraded numerous times since 1965. that is why my colleagues senator manchin and murkowski called for bipartisan reauthorization of the voting rights act. bipartisan call for reauthorization last spring of the voting rights act. they said, quote, inaction is not an option, end quote. they continued to say, quote, congress must come together just as we have done in the past time and time again to reaffirm our long-standing bipartisan commitment to free, accessible, and secure elections.
and that is what we must do now. that is why there are 150 businesses who support the john lewis act, companies like microsoft and google intel and tesla, target, paypal. these are companies who know and understand, they want to do business in a democracy. as tim cook said, the right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. american history is a story of expanding the right to vote to all citizens and black people in particular have had to march, struggle, and even give their lives for more than a century to defend that right, and we support efforts to ensure that our democracy and our future is more hopeful and inclusive than the past. there are others -- best buy --
an election cannot be free or fair if every eligible voter is not given a fair chance to vote or if the law makes it harder to do so. now, madam president, i disagree with my colleague who was just on the floor because there is a lot of demeaning of the system. i'm not going to spend a lot of time on this now because i have another segment here on the floor later, but i come from a vote-by-mail state, and i am proud of what our state has accomplished. so i do not appreciate the disinformation of newt gingrich when he says, quote, the biggest way with to expand voter fraud is to expand vote by mailment. he's wrong. if i could slash a red line and a red circle through this now, madam president, i would do so. but i will spend many minutes
later on the floor talking to people why vote by mail is part of the solution and not the threat that he thinks it is. companies know that when it comes to our economy, we're greatly aided by being in a democracy, and that is why they don't want it eroded. it will cost us if we're a less stable place to do business. so why now do people refuse to engage on the john lewis voting rights act? you know, i might be one of those people who would say, don't change the filibuster rule; we can wait. wait? wait? for what? what are we waiting for?
our capitol was attacked. we were attacked. people defending us were killed. for what? for what? a big lie. a big lie about our election. i sat outside the capitol on january 6 and listened to the president telling these lies i knew weren't true. i knew what he said wasn't correct about our voting laws because i know and understand them, and i certainly know vote by mail. but he said many lies that now many court decisions have all said are not true. but the point is that donald trump and his followers keep following and they tell the people the election wasn't fairly decided, and now they're
trying to pass state laws eroding our constitutional rights to protect every american's ability to vote, and some here don't want to act. our democracy is under threat, and people are trying to undermine the credibility of our elections, and you don't want to act. trump supporters are literally trying to hoist a jolly roger flag over our democracy because they lost the election, and some people don't want to act. some percentage of the republican party now believe that the election was wrongly decided, and some people don't want to act. madam president, we have to have faith in close elections, and
the best way to do that is not to suppress the vote but encourage and empower more people to vote in a safe and secure manner. we need to believe in our voting system, not believe that we can undermine it. democracies don't grow on trees. they need to be protected. they need to be defended. they need to be fought for. and with all the challenges we're facing -- covid, a changing economy in an information age, global migration, climate change -- i'm getting too many questions from my constituents about whether we're becoming a fascist nation. why am i answering those questions? because trump told a billing lie and he got people to attack our capitol and now he's ramping up fear and anxiety to the point
where locals are changing their election laws and eroding our democracy? no, i can't stand by. i will vote to proceed and change. i will not stand by because my parents taught me better. my father fought in world war ii and reminded me constantly when i was growing up that if someone's rights were being eroded, you better stand up because if you don't, they're coming after your rights next. and a threat to one was a threat to all. my mom worked at the polls on election day. when she was a child, she played in her backyard and met an african american woman who became her friend. when election day rolled around, my mom noticed that her friend had to wait outside in the cold to vote. where the white voters got to go inside and wait. my mom took her friend by the
hand inside the polling place and said, my friend's not waiting outside. it earned my mom the nick name "little eleanor." after the first lady of the period. what might seem surprising is how much my mom liked her fellow republican precinct committeemen. she felt like they were on the same team -- team democracy, people who got the vote out. they may not agree on who they were voting for, but they agreed people should vote. and they were willing to live with the consequences. and believe me, my parents had a lot of -- a lot of things that they had to keep fighting for, but they believed in democracy.
i remember my mom saying how uneasy she felt when she realized her friends and neighbors seeing the results of her precinct didn't support john kennedy for president of the united states. my parents were crushed when john kennedy, robert kennedy, and dr. martin luther king jr. were all assassinated, but they never lost faith in the system and they never said the system was rigged. what we need to do now is to protect our democracy. we need to pass the john lewis voting rights act.
we need to say, as dr. martin luther king jr. said, that one man, one vote is what our country stands for, and it is the strength of our nation. one thing about john 6 bothers me the most. it bothers me the most because i think about my father and his brother. my father quit high school to fight in world war ii because his brother was already missing or in a p.o.w. camp. he knew he had to join the fight against the oppressions, the tyranny, the fascism that existed. he knew he had to join the fight to uphold the democracy of the united states.
this is a picture of what it looked like to be escorted back into this chamber on january 6. all i could think of when i saw this picture is, obviously, yes, support and grat feud for the military -- gratitude for the military who supported us. but all i could think about was my father and his brother who fought in world war ii for these rights, to uphold a democracy, so that i could stand for election and that my friends and neighbors could vote for me, and then i would come here in an environment where i was free to walk into the capitol at any moment and cast a vote on behalf of the people that i represent.
and yet on one fateful day, that all changed. and we were no different than some other country who had to use military force to support our democracy here in voting. madam president, that's not the way it's supposed to be. that's not what we're fighting for. many americans have fought to uphold the democracies of our nation. the least we could do is pass the john lewis voting rights act. the least we could do is work in a mission together to pass the john lewis voting rights act and show that our country believes in holding these important values of a democracy as utmost
important. let's vote to get this done. let's move forward to show our country we believe in voting rights in the united states senate. i thank the president. i yield the floor. mr. grassley: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: democrats have shamelessly alleged that a massive federal takeover of elections is needed because of questions some republicans raised after the 2020 election. so i come to the floor today to show that this whole argument predates the 2020 election. this democrat reasoning is despite the fact that their
proposal predates the 2020 election. the bill that they want us to pass is a product of concerns that the democrats had about the 2016 election being stolen from hillary clinton, also because of the 2018 elections, and in fact the democrat proposal was designed specifically to double down on false claims that democrats lost certain elections in 2018 only because of rigged elections. i've said it before, and i want to say it again. evidence-free claims of voter suppression are as bad as election-free claims of voter fraud. both voter fraud and
discrimination in voting is illegal. any claim of voter fraud or violation of voting rights should be resolved in our independent court system with evidence that can stand up in the courts. and as i've mentioned before, the claims before some trump supporters that certain brand of voting machines switch votes was lifted entirely from the democrats' 2004 playbook. and you may remember that democrat house members challenged the electoral vote count of why, of whether george w. bush was official and honestly reelected. and president trump's questioning of his loss in
georgia was simply following in the footsteps of the losing democrat candidate for governor of that state just two years before, who lost a much bigger margin and never admitted that defeat. that makes me wonder if democrats professed outrage comes from a sincere concern for democratic reforms or if they're just upset that president trump stole their playbook. if democrats really want to preserve democratic norms, they would not be proposing a federal government overturning the current electoral process in all 50 states on purely partisan basis, with no attempt to even hear out republicans' legitimate concerns.
the bills that we're talking about this week are being called democracy reform. does democracy need reform? i support the american democratic system. it does not need a fundamental rewrite. 240-year history of our great country under this constitution ought to support that. it works and it deserves our support. we should not denigrate american democracy for short-term political gain. president trump's candidacy in 2016 brought many americans to the polls who had not voted recently, and it was a record turnout. in 2020, turnout broke the
record yet again both for the republican party and the democratic party. and president biden won that election. in the 2021 election, there were unusually high turnouts for off-year elections to the benefit of republicans and conservatives. you saw that, particularly in the state of virginia, where the republican candidates statewide were victorious, and you saw some surprising turnouts of opposition to democrats that were reelected in the state of new jersey. democrats accuse republicans of wanting to keep people from voting. why would we want to keep people from voting when we have been very successful in many large turnout elections very recently?
plus, have you seen the polls today that shows dissatisfaction with democrats, a republican deficit of five or seven points last year with a positive republican versus democrat polls this year. so we ought to stop casting doubt about american elections. stop casting aspersions on commonsense election security measures like i.d. supported by overwhelming numbers of americans of all backgrounds. and by all backgrounds, i mean even people that we classify as minorities.
let's work together to boost the confidence of all americans in our elections. let's start rejecting claims that only way that the other party can win is by rigging elections. let's retire the short-term strategy of falsely claiming that one of the two parties is a threat to democracy. that in and of itself is a very undemocratic position to take. this kind of rhetoric damages civil society and erodes faith in our democracy. for the sake of our country, please stop it. when democrats last had the majority and proposed blowing up the senate rules and the
historic way that the senate has worked, i gave a series of speeches explaining how the father of the constitution, james madison, intended for the senate to be a deliberative body. in other words, a break on the hot passions that occur in the house of representatives. i repeated my deeply held opposition to gutting the senate process even when my party took control of all three branches, and it would have been politically expedient in the short term. i don't know how many times president trump brought up doing away with what we call the filibuster, or the 60-vote requirement. it was even followed by a lot of our republican party grassroots wanting to overcome democrats'
use of the cloture rule to block the republican agenda during those four years. but i spoke out strongly against it in 2017, over half of the current democrat senators signed a letter calling for preservation of the current rules requiring of 60 votes to stop debate for considering the legislation, despite the use of nuclear option for nominees. i agree with president biden's position in 2005, reflecting on the same understanding that i have of the constitution and the role of the senate as envisioned by james madison, then-senator biden said this, quote, that's the reason we have the rule.
so when one party controls all levers of government, one man or woman can't stand on the floor of the senate and resist the passions of the moment, end of quote. even senator schumer, the majority leader, said at that time, gutting the cloture rule would be a, quote, unquote, doomsday for democracy. doomsday for democracy. now it seems like senator schumer invites that doomsday. senator durbin hit the nail on the head as recently as 2018 saying, quote, it would be the end of the senate as it was originally devised and created, going back to our founding fathers, end of quote. i agreed then, and i agree now.
now the shoe is on the other foot, and democrats have changed their position. many not for the first time. senator durbin has now joined the crusade of his democratic predecessor, steven douglas of illinois, famous for debating abraham lincoln on the issues of slavery, but that douglas from illinois also proposed the senate rule changing, to change allowing a narrow minority to vote a final vote on bills. hypocrisy is not rare in politics, on both silents. but the fact that democrats switched principles on such a consequential matter whenever senate control changes from one party to the other is particularly glaring. the party of jim crow which made
liberal use of so-called filibuster just over a year ago to block republicans' agendas are now saying falsely it's a relic of jim crow. i do not see how they can look the voters in the eyes with no sign of embarrassment. i do not understand why the policemen of our governmental system, the media, isn't roafgget them for this -- roasting them for this hypocritical power grab. i would now like to address a misconception on the cloture motion, the 60-vote requirement. the cloture motion requires 60 votes to bring consideration of legislation to finality. just because it can be used to block legislation does not mean
that the term cloture always equals a filibuster. cloture cuts off not just debate, but the offering of amendments. voting for cloture also is saying that the senate has voted on enough amendments. senators who have amendments important to their state that they want to offer should be voting against cloture to preserve their right to offer amendments as their constituents might desire. debate and amendments are the hallmark of this democracy, not an obstacle to be swept aside in pursuit of short-term partisan agenda. when democrats last controlled the senate with 60 votes and thereafter, amendment votes became very rare.
even rank-and-file democrats lost opportunities to represent their states with amendments important to that state. let's look at the cloture issue another way. also, many people confuse debate over filibuster with talking nonstop to delay. that's a kind of mr. smith goes to washington filibuster, the famous movie. this has nothing to do with cloture. people who talk about returning to the so-called talking filibuster are confusing two different senate rules, both called filibuster. senators have never had to talk until they drop from exhaustion to preserve their right to amend bills, so the talking filibuster rhetoric is nonsense.
democrats have convinced themselves, or at least their activist base, and done it falsely, that our democracy is in crisis. so it is absurd to say only one party, unilateral governments, can save democracy. but once an exception is made -- and they're talking about that exception just for this voting rights bill -- but once an exception is made to the right of all senators to debate and to amend legislation, there seems to be no going back. you learned that, democrats learned that in 2013 when they abolished the 60-vote requirement on district and circuit court judges, and they lived to regret it four years
later when republicans did the same thing when we had a supreme court justice up. it's a slippery slope that you should not let come about. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: will the senator from iowa yield to a question? mr. grassley: i'm not very good about yielding, but i will try. mr. merkley: thank you for coming to the floor to debate such an important issue as how to make the senate work well as a deliberative body and how to make our country work well. but i was struck by a couple of things that you mentioned, and that is you stood strong fast against striking down the filibuster and you noted how consistent you were, but you also criticized democrats for changing position. can you help out my memory, did
you not vote to strike down the filibuster on supreme court nominees? mr. grassley: yes. mr. merkley: you have changed your position, opposing the filibuster? mr. grassley: remember what i said, i just said it, you obviously heard me, that we warned in 2013 when all republicans voted reducing the 60-vote down for district court and circuit court judges so you could pack the d.c. circuit court of appeals that you would regret that and you have regretted because republicans were saying in 2017 what's good for the goose is good for the gander and we voted to reduce it
then for a supreme court justice. and now i'm sure that from your point of view you have a supreme court that's not very favorable to what you think a supreme court ought to be doing with the three people that trump put on there. so that's -- that's where i'm coming from. úyoe that we have dialogue on the floor of the senate. it's one of the things we lost. i do recall for a moment that for over a year we had working groups trying to resolve the extraordinary new level of cloture motions on president biden's nominations. it concluded in a meeting in the old senate chamber where an agreement was reached to stop doing that, and then as you point out, mitch mcconnell came to the floor and said it doesn't matter the quality of the individual nominated, i will not let any individual to be nominated for this.
that was a new element brought in to bear on that. to illuminate some of the details. you said that the filibuster is not a relic of jim crow. and i was struck about that because from 1891 through 1965 -- so we are talking over 80 years -- the only thing blocked in the u.s. senate by filibuster was civil rights for black americans. given that, wouldn't you say it's fair for us to say the filibuster in that history was, indeed, a relic of jim crow? mr. grassley: you know who controlled the senate during that period of time on the issue you brought up and it was democrat senators from the south. remember when the civil rights act of 1965 was passed, that there was a higher percentage of
republicans than democrats that voted for it, and the one person that made a difference in getting the civil rights act passed was senator dirksen, the republican leader. i will have to end this discussion with you because -- but i want to say one thing. why would you want to expand this president that's sent by democrats into legislation and weaken bipartisanship. that's where we have to leave it. s is a slippery slope. you may want do it for a voting rights act. mr. merkley: thank you for responding to my questions. mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: i think i'll start by returning to the 1800's, and a senator from massachusetts, senator sumner. now, senator sumner later played
a key role in civil rights debates which is why i'm returning to that story and it's a story about the senate floor. sumner gave a speech about kansas being admitted into the union and he was a republican senator who called out two democratic senators, insulting one of them, and a representative from the house of representatives, on the other end of this corridor, came over here. his name was preston brooks, and he took considerable offense, and he proceeded to come to the senate floor and cane senator sumner and senator sumner was injured. he did recover. recovered slowly, served for another 18 years, which leads me to the fact that he proceeded to put forward civil rights legislation in 1875.
and in 1875, 150 years ago -- almost 150 years ago, 145 years ago. and so he argued, after the civil war, that our black americans were being discriminated against and it needed to end. that anyone should go into any public accommodation and be treated equally here in the united states of america, a constitution that says all men, and that includes women, are created equally. and so he put forward this bill and it said that every person gets equal access to theaters, to public schools, to churches, to cemeteries, equal opportunity to serve in jury duty, and that any suits brought in this regard would be tried this federal court, not state court so we
could enforce a federal standard of nondiscrimination across this land. now, sumner died of a heart attack in 1874. so he had put forward this originally as an amendment -- actually an introduction in 1870 as a bill and he died before it could be passed. and as he was dying, he pleaded to frederick douglass, you must take care of my civil rights bill. and in the months following his death, the senate did act, and they supported that bill and it was passed into law in 1875. at that moment it would be hard to envision that after i was born we would still be fighting for equal access to public
accommodations. the senate passed that bill and it made it into law in 1875, but the supreme court of the united states struck down that law eight years later. boom. equal access in america supported by the elected representatives of the house and the senate was blown to smither smithereens by the supreme court of america. well, that did set the stage for another civil rights battle, and it was 1890. it was after benjamin harris' successful presidential campaign in which he promised election reform, election integrity. because, you see, anyone looking at our republic would know that we are all affected, no matter what state we come from, by the
integrity of the elections in the other states. there has to be integrity of all of them for this u.s. senate to have integrity. there has to be integrity in all of the state elections for that house of representatives down the hall to have integrity. so benjamin harris was elected campaigning on this type of reform. and there was a senator, senator george horde, who championed an amendment for federal elections. it was particularly targeted at stopping voter suppression that had originally risen in the southern part of the united states following the civil war. so this bill, known commonly as the lodge bill, and also known as the federal elections bill, it passed the house of
representatives in 1890. and what did this bill do? it allowed citizens from any district to petition a federal circuit court to appoint federal supervisors for congressional elections in days of efforts to suppress the vote by local officials. it permitted the federal government to appoint supervisors to oversee all federal elections, including voter registration and certification of election results to make sure there were no shenanigans at the state level that would corrupt the core division of electionings, it is the foundation of division of legitimacy and the production of government of, by, and for the people. it enabled federal election supervisors to request deputy
marshalls if necessary and it came mere to the senate -- here to the senate and it failed because they couldn't get i ask unanimous consent to close debate. at that time there was no cloture motion. senators in 1805 had gotten rid of the prior pressure rule because they had a social contract. that social contract was that we listen to everyone to get their perspectives. people can speak not once but twice on a question. we're going to listen to everyone and then we take a vote. that was the social contract. but this filibuster broke that social contract because everyone was listened to but you couldn't
get unanimous consent to close debate. and so the bill died. it had the support of the people of the united states of america, through their elected representatives down the hall, it had the support of this senate to protect the fundamental right to vote in our nation by the majority of this body here in the u.s. senate, but the social contract was broken to block black americans from voting. to allow states and local election officials to rig the registrations so they couldn't sign up, to allow intimidators at the polls to keep black americans from getting to the ballot. you know, i would like to say that all traces of inequality in voting are gone from america.
i'd like to say that. and, indeed, that was reasonably true -- reasonably true through recent years before the supreme court gutted the voting rights act, because it had to be preapproved. i say reasonably true because the real fact is there was a significant blemish in our elections and that is on election day in certain states and certain precincts, there was a game being played to make it harder for some citizens to vote on other citizens to vote and the game worked like this. if you have an area where you want low turnout, you proceed to create a big precinct so that there's a lot of people who have to go to that one place to vote.
and if you have a desire to encourage people in another precinct to vote, a white precinct, you create smaller precincts, so the voting line won't be as long and then there were other tricks. like, for example, understaffing the voting precinct where it is predominately black americans making it harder to vote and making sure it is staffed really well the precinct where you want white americans to vote. and there were other tricks as well. for example, relocating the voting location in the black precinct so people go to the wrong place or put it where parking is nearly impossible so it is harder to get to the poll. or putting out false information about the date and the location of the voting. these things are all wrong.
voter suppression exists today. and it was powerful to see how a couple tools have greatly reduced those tricks and traps. one of those tools is early voting. if you have an early voting period, it's hard to create long lines, it's hard to sustain wrong information about where to go, it's very difficult to -- to deny people the ability to vote simply by having too few staffers. even more sof vote by mail is -- more so, vote by mail is powerful. we have republican states like utah that have vote by mail and they love it. it elects republicans. you have more blue states like oregon that have vote by mail and they love it. and that's my home state. and i was really struck when i was first running for the oregon state legislature.
it was 1998. and we still voted at the precincts voting polls except the republican party had said we can increase turnout if we get all the republicans to sign up for absentee ballots. and so they got a high percent of republicans to turn -- to sign up for absentee ballots and then the democrats said, well, okay, yeah, we can get democrats to sign up for absentee ballots. and so 50% of the electorate in 1998 in oregon was voting by mail. and 50% at the polls. and as i went door to door, my first race for the oregon house, and asked people what they liked and didn't like, they normally said what i really hate is we have too many hot poles. i'm not happy with city hall. and what i really like is my absentee ballot. and i'd say why is that. they said, well, you know, i don't have to worry about where
to park and i don't have to worry about long lines. and, you know what else? it's a complicated set of issues under an initiative system we have in oregon and i could be at my table, study them and discuss them with my spouse. have my children come to the table and see what we're doing. well, these two tools really opened the doors to the election process in the last election. and the response of my republican colleagues was oh, no, we can't let that happen. we don't want those people to vote. we better rein in. vote by mail. we better rein in voter registration. georgia got rid of voter registration in between the main election and the runoff because 70,000-plus georgians registered during that period and they think it helped democrats more
than republicans. so in a prejudicial way, they said let's make registration harder. well, it's not acceptable in our country to erect barriers for targeted communities, not for black americans, not for hispanic americans, not for college students, not for young voters, and not for native american reservationists, not for anyone. but why are those groups being targeted in a surgical way by the strategies in state after state after state with republican legislatures and republican governors? because those constituencies tend to vote more often for democrats than republicans. so they are stealing the vote of millions of americans. they are corrupting the election process for millions of
americans. and we stand here today in the senate with the same issue that we were debating in 1890 and 1891. the house set national standards so every american can vote. and the senate would not give unanimous consent to get to a final vote and contributed to eight-plus decades of discrimination in our country, of corrupted elections in our country until the voting rights act of 1965. i see a colleague here preparing to speak. and i haven't even begun my real speech yet. but i'm going to close to hand the floor to him, my colleague from maryland. but let me summarize a couple
points before i do so. i believe the senate is far better off when the minority has the power to slow things down. i think that that is valued to be able to have leverage to get amendments, to be able to negotiate a compromise, to be able to make sure a technical bill has been examined by experts and you understand what it really does. to make sure we've seen all the provisions, to make sure the public has seen all the provisions, to make sure the press has been able to investigate the provisions. all of that is incredibly positive. and it's why whether i've been in the minority or been in the majority i have argued we need to sustain 60 votes to close debate. and i still hold that position now, 60 votes to close debate by a vote. there have traditionally been
four ways that a debate on the floor comes to a conclusion. the first is a break in the debate. at that point -- i was struck when i asked the experts if the chair allowed to call the question? not only can they call the question, they have the responsibility to call the question when there's a break in the debate. so a break in the debate is one. the second is by unanimous consent. everyone agrees we've been at this long enough. let's do four more amendments and then go to final passage. and there's a unanimous consent agreement to do that. and we still do that quite often. the third is to have a vote on closing debate and we have to get 60 votes. it's not a -- so the irony is those who want to debate often don't show up. you can have a vote 59-5 and the 59 lose. you have to get 60 votes.
so the problem -- and the fourth. the fourth is rule 19 which says every senator gets to speak twice. now, as far as i'm aware, there's never been a debate in the u.s. senate that was finally brought to a close by everyone using up their two speeches but it always hovers and there is an eventual ability to vote on the question. these are the four traditional strategies. we need to apply those four strategies to a period of debate addressing final passage of the bill. the cloture motion would still be there. the possibility of a u.c. would still be there. a break in the debate would still be a break in the debate and a u.c. would be a u.c. all four tools would still be there but we'd be addressing final passage. the problem we have, a little kind of behind-the-scenes complexity of senate rules is that in the modern senate, there
is always a pending amendment. so you can't actually get to final passage unless you have a period of debate dedicated to final passage. a break in the debate would call to question on the amendment, not final passage. this means that those who want more debate could hold the floor for weeks and weeks on something they are determined to keep presenting to the american public. but it brings in the public. it brings in the public. they can weigh in on whether we're heroes or -- they can help us understand how folks back home feel. there is no public in the no-show, no-effort, invisible filibuster that we have had since 1975. there's no public. and there are no amendments.
because amendments require super majority close debate. somebody says i'm not going to great on that until it will come up. you do your amendment, i'll do my amendment. we'll all be on topic and it's gone. so the number of amendments has dropped tenfold between the 109th congress and the 116th congress. the number of amendments dropped ten more than tenfold. or over that time period. instead the floor managers negotiate. the leaders negotiate. they produce a list and then ask everyone to agree on that list. and someone objects. you have to help my amendment. so we, a room full of former house members and industry leaders, former governors, former speakers of their statehouse or presidents of their state senate, all this talent sitting around here, people who have engaged do nothing day after day after day while the invisible no-show,
no-effort filibuster destroys debate in the senate of the united states of america. it is our responsibility to restore debate to this chamber, to restore amendments. so the advantages of the restoration are, number one, that you have amendments. number two, that you have public debate. and number three, perhaps most important, you have an incentive for both sides to negotiate. because under the no-show, no-effort invisible filibuster we've had since 1975, the minority of either side says, you know, if i can get 41 of our minority members to agree not to close debate and all they have to do is not even show up to vote or show up to vote if they like but vote no, then the majority can never get anything done and won't that enhance our political power in the minority party?
that's almost an inresistible temptation in the tribal partisan warfare of today. so each minority is tempted into basically exercising a veto over the majority party's policy agenda. that is an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind strategy. the democrats sabotage the republican majority. the republicans sabotage the democratic majority. but under the public filibuster, not only is the public involved, but the minority has to maintain continuous debate which can be hard. so they have an incentive to negotiation. and the majority has seen the time burned up they need for other things, other policy bills and other nominations, they have an incentive to negotiate. so you get amendments. you get the public involved. and most important, you recreate
an incentive to negotiate. that is the reinvigorated filibuster strategy, the talking filibuster. i'll call it the public filibuster or just call it extended debate on final pass annual of the bill. whatever you call it, it is better than the paralysis and partisanship that are destroying the senate's ability to address the questions that face this nation and there is no more important question than defending the right of every citizen to vote. thank you, mr. president.
mr. van hollen: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. van hollen: thank you, mr. president. let me start by thanking our colleague, the senator from oregon, senator merkley, for his leadership in working to restore the functioning of the senate and to protect our democracy. and we need both and we need them now. mr. president, it was just 12 days ago that we marked the one-year anniversary of the january 6 attack on this capitol and on our democracy itself. it was a violent attempt to stop congress from certifying the presidential election of joe biden and to overturn the decision of the american people. and it was inspired and instigated by the former president. and while that assault did not exceed -- succeed in stopping us from counting the vote that day,
the big lie did not die. in fact the big lie has metastasize. it has spread and its poison is seeping across the country. it is now taking the form of republican-controlled state legislatures enacting law that's recollect new barriers to the ballot box. and let's be clear. they are erecting barriers specifically designed to make it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their ballots. as we saw in a federal circuit court case a number of years ago with respect to north carolina, the court found that the state legislature had targeted african american voters with surgical precision. dr. king observed that voting is, quote, the foundation stone for political action. and he also observed that when
the right to vote is impeded, a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition are betrayed. and what we see happening in state legislatures are not just efforts to put up barriers to the ballot box. they're also passing laws to authorize partisan operatives to interfere in the counting of the votes. and even to overturn the result after the count. so laws to interfere with the casting of the votes and laws to interfere with the counting of the votes. that's what's happening right now, and 19 legislatures around the country have already enacted these kinds of laws. so, mr. president, yes, our democracy was under attack right here on january 6 of last year.
but one year later the evidence is clear -- the big lie is alive and our democracy is still under attack. it's under attack by those seeking to implement the big lie in state legislatures. it's just the venue that has changed. when we reconvened here after the attacks of january 6 i said on this floor that what we witnessed is what happens when we don't stand up together, as democrats and republicans, to confront the big lie. now, over a year later, we have another chance to stand up together, to meet this moment and to protect our democracy we need to take action here and now. that's what the freedom to vote act does. it establishes minimum standard to ensure equal access to the
ballot box across the country. it guards against partisan election mettling. it ends gerrymandering nationwide. and it ends secret money in elections. and it contains the john r. lewis voting rights advancement act to restore the protections guaranteed in the voting rights act of 1965. that's what it does. and mr. president, we are well within our rights as federal lawmakers to write and pass these bills. the relevant portion of article 1, section 4, clause 1 of the constitution, i have that here, clearly states the times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof, but the congress may at any time by law
make or alter such regulations. the constitution specifically empowers us to pass these laws to protect voting. so enough of the specious argument i've heard so many times here on the senate floor that these bills somehow represent an unconstitutional power grab. far from it. the framers expressly empower the congress proprotect federal elections. now, all 50 members of the democratic majority, the democratic caucus, support these bills to protect our democracy. i'm disappointed that as of this moment not one member of the senate republican caucus plans to join us. in fact, with know that there are 16 republican senators here
today who voted in 2006 to reauthorize the voting rights act. today not a single republican senator will stand up and support these bills. mr. president, that's a very sad and bad sign of this moment in our history. i accept that each and every senator has the right to cast their vote on bills however they choose. that's the way democracy works. but what is happening now is very different. republican senators are using the current version of the senate rules to block a vote on these vital measures to protect our democracy, to prevent this body from having a final vote on the freedom to vote legislationened a the john r. lewis voting rights enhancement
act. so mr. president, let's step back and look at how the current version of the senate rules operate in practice. and i say current rules because the senate rules have evolved over time, as our colleague from oregon has mentioned. they have taken many twists and turns over the years. and in their current form and practice they have departed radically from their original purpose and design. today, with some exceptions, 41 out of 100 senators can block the other 59 from voting on legislation that's important to the american people. over the last year, the senate rule has been used to block bills that enacted commonsense gun safety provisions, provide for equal pay for equal work, and many other bills have been blocked from even getting a vote
under the current senate rules. so, let's unpack this. let's understand what this means. right now under our rules it's possible for 41 senators, representing 21 states and 11% of the united states population, to block the will of 50 senators representing 84% of the u.s. population. think about that. under our current rules senators representing a small percentage of the population, 11%, can block the will of the majority. so how did this happen? well, it happened because over time, not at the beginning but over time, senators decided to empower themselves at the expense of the american people.
it wasn't always this way. as i said, in its earliest days, the senate was founded on two principles. the first was that senators would have ample opportunity to make their case, to their fellow senators and to the country. if they had the minority position on a particular issue, they had a chance to come here to the floor of the senate to persuade their colleagues of the merits of their position. and maybe in the process have the whole country turn to their side of the debate and influence the ultimate result. so, the senators were given the opportunity for prolonged debate, to ensure that all opinions were heard and considered before the final vote. in fact, as my colleague from oregon mentioned, each senator was able to deliver two speeches on a particular question on a
single legislative day. but after all the views were heard, after prolonged debate was ended, the senate would move to a majority vote. that is how the senate earned its reputation as the world's greatest deliberative body. nothing could be further from the truth, that truth today. we have very little debate on the senate floor today. real debate, where senators engage on the big questions of the day. in fact, the minority of senators who oppose legislation pending before the senate can block it without even coming to the senate floor to debate. they don't even have to come here to make their case to their fellow senators or the american people. don't even have to show up to debate.
we're talking about a senate rule that was designed to encourage debate, and yet we have it operating today where nobody has to even show up on this floor to make their position known. and it's not that senators don't even have to show up to debate. they don't even have to show up for the debate -- for the vote to cut off debate. under our current rules, we could have a vote right here in the senate of 59-0 in favor of moving forward on legislation, and the 41 senators who didn't even show up would carry the day. they would block the 59 from expressing the will of the american people. how crazy is that? that's what the current senate rules provide. mr. president, that is not what the founders of our republic envisioned. in fact, the current version and
application of the senate's rules amount to a total perversion of the constitutional framework. these rules pervert the intent of our framers, and they undermine the democratic architecture of our republic. our founders never, never intended for a minority of senators, for 41 senators, to be able to thwart the will of the majority and of the people. in federalist 22, alexander hamilton asserted that the fundamental maxim of republican government was, quote, the sense of the majority should prevail, unquote. and even more clearly right on point was james madison, in federalist 58, where he directly warned against requiring more than a majority for a decision
in the legislature, saying, quote, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. it would be no longer the majority that would rule. the power would be transferred to the minority, unquote. this is james madison, key architect of our constitution and the framework of this republic. now, mr. president, we know it's true that the framers of our constitution knew the dangers of overly powerful majorities, and they wanted to and did guard against that rink in the constitution itself. that's why the framersdiffused power among the people, among the states, and within the federal government, to protect minority viewpoints in the country. in the bill of rights our
founders clearly said that each american has certain unalienable rights, that no government action can take away, not by a vote of this congress, not by an order of the president, not by anybody in the executive branch. that's the bill of rights. our found terse also created -- founders also created three coequal branches of government, constrained by a system of checks and balances. it's all right here in the constitution. and within the legislative branch they didn't create one un unitary body like most parliaments today. they created two separate bodiee house of representatives. and a totally independent executive branch, with the president directly elected by the people through the electoral college. now, mr. president, i think it's worth pointing out that the senate contains built-in
protections for the minority by its very structure. the two senators from wyoming represent 578,000 of our fellow americans. the two senators from california represent 39 million of our fellow americans. two senators from wyoming represent 578,000 people. two senators from california represent 39 million americans. but here in the senate, each of those senators, whether from wyoming or california, have votes of equal weight. you can do the math, the political math. people of wyoming are already exerting influence here in the senate way out of proportion to their share of the american
population. that's in the structure. but if you layer the current version of the senate filibuster rule on top of the senate structure, and on top of the other protections for minority rights enshrined in our constitution, you further nullify the will of the american people. you nullify the will of the majority of our fellow citizens. that's why the anti-majoritarian, anti-democratic, small d, senate rule is nowhere to be found in the constitution. you can search high and low. it's nowhere to be found here. in fact, as i said, our founders were very clear about allowing the majority sentiment vote to prevail in the end. and they were very clear in this document, the constitution,
exactly when to require a super majority vote. it's right here. two-thirds vote of all members is required to convict andremove a president. two-thirds vote is needed to expel a senator. two-thirds needed to override a presidential vietnam. two-thirds vote to concur on treaties. two-thirds to amend the constitution. that's it. that's what's in the constitution of the united states. our founders did not envision a senate where the normal course of legislative process and business could be permanently blocked by a minority of senators. there's nothing in here about needing 60 out of 100 votes to pass legislation, like the freedom to vote act. there's nothing in our constitution about a senate where 41 out of 100 senators can
routinely block the will of the majority and subvert the will of the american people. james madison expressly warned against requiring supermajorities for legislation. yes, for treaties. yes for removal of a president. not for the normal course of legislation. so where did the current senate rule come from? it is a total invention of senators that empowers individual senators by disempowering the overwhelming majority of the american people. that's what it is. think about this in the context of the freedom to vote act. the duly elected president of the united states won over 80 million votes, won the electoral
college, is in favor of it. a majority of the house of representatives representing the majority of the american people is in favor of it. 50 united states senators representing 62% of the american people are in favor of it. but the bill is being blocked by a minority of senators representing a minority of the american people. and think about this, mr. president. state legislatures around the country, as we gather here, are passing laws to erect barriers to voting by a majority vote. the laws they are passing impact every citizen in this country because they impact the outcome of federal elections. when state legislatures in georgia pass laws to disenfranchise voters in federal elections, they are disenfranchising voters in all of the other 49 states who have
a stake in the outcome of federal elections. but the current version of the senate rules prevents the united states senate from passing a majority vote to protect voting for every american. even though the constitution expressly empowers us to do that, to regulate federal elections. so, mr. president, what arguments do proponents of the current filibuster rule present to justify this self-anointed power to where thwart the majory will of the american people? one claim is that it promotes bipartisanship. look, i know, mr. president, you -- i know the senator from virginia who has joined us -- i know the senator from oregon -- all of us prefer to find common ground to meet the challenges of
the day when we can. i am proud to be the author of many bipartisan measures and to sponsor many others and to vote for many of those measures. but let's not -- let's not kid ourselves here in the united states senate about the ability of the 60-vote requirement to promote bipartisanship. the senate we are living in today is the most polarized ever. the claim that this rule promotes bipartisanship flies in the face of the reality we witness every day. in fact, the filibuster in its current form has become a partisan political weapon. tim lowe of the brennan center notes that while there have been more than 2,000 filibusters since 1917, about half of them have been in just the past 12 years. think about that.
there were more filibusters in president obama's second term than in all the years between world war i and the end of the reagan administration combined. this abuse has led to partisan gridlock, not bipartisan cooperation. but, mr. president, let's talk about bipartisanship. i had hoped -- we had hoped that action to preserve our -- pre-our democrats would be a bipartisan endeavor. but that isn't where we are today and that's not good. the battle to protect constitutional rights has been waged along party lines in the past. the 14th amendment, which guaranteed citizenship to former slaves and guarantees equal protection of the law, was passed by republicans in congress with almost no bipartisan support. we salute them for that action.
the 15th amendment guarantees the right to vote to all citizens of the united states, and it was passed by one party and one party alone. those actions were taken by the old republican party that used to be the party of lincoln. should we have sacrificed those critical amendments at the altar of bipartisanship? should we have said to them, don't pass them because no democrats at that time support them? of course not. we all strive for bipartisanship, but that goal should not stand in the way of legislative action, especially on issues central to protecting our democracy. another argument often made, including by many of our democratic colleagues, in favor of keeping the current version of the senate rules and the supermajority requirement
highlights the risk of giving up the, quote, protection of the filibuster on issues that democrats hold dear and where republicans hold a different position. if we eliminate the 60-vote threshold to pass policies that republicans don't like, won't republicans be able to use a majority vote to pass policies that democrats don't like? that's true. that's the nature of democracy. it's what elections are for. every two years for members of the house, every six years for the senate, every four years for the president. the american people don't like a law that we've passed, they get to go to the ballot box to render a decision. that is the ultimate accountability in the system, and we should not be erecting
artificial rules to protect ourselves from the majority views of the american people. in fact, it's simply arrogant -- arrogant -- to invent a rule that blocks the will of the american people. it's simply arrogant to say that we senators -- not we the people -- are the guardians of our democracy and we're going to come up with this rule that's not in the constitution to do that a that's what our current senate rules do. now, mr. president, there is one major exception to this 60-vote rule to end the filibuster on legislation. it's called the reconciliation process. i believe that this major exception exposes the absurdity of the current senate rule
itself. most folks watching this debate may be justifiably confused. they're watching the senate and they're saying, it was about a year ago that the senate passed the american rescue plan with a majority vote. it was a vote of 50-49. it was a major piece of legislation. responding to the pandemic emergency. not a single republican senator voted for it, but it passed. during the trump administration, senate republicans passed a major tax giveaway to the rich by a vote of 51-48. not a single democrat voted for it. those laws contain major policy changes, but they could not be blocked by a vote of a minority
of 41 senators. why is that? it's because in 1974 the senate carved out a major exception to the supermajority filibuster rule for legislative -- legislation connected to the annual budget process. that carve-out, that procedure, allowed for the passage of the trump tax law, for the american rescue plan, and earlier for the affordable care act. so, colleagues, here we are maintaining this carve-out to the filibuster rule that allows donald trump and senate republicans to pass big tax cuts by a majority party-line vote. you can't block it with a vote of 41. it allows us to pass important things like the american rescue plan, using the same procedure. but our rules don't allow us to pass bills to protect our democracy.
that's absurd. anyone paying close attention to the rules would see how absurd that is in a great democracy. and it needs to change, and it needs to change now. each day that we maintain the current undemocratic senate rules that allows 41 senators to block the will of the majority, we allow state legislatures to continue their assault on democracy, and we prevent our own democracy from working the way it was intended. mr. president, the american people sent us here to get things done, to move the country forward, and the overwhelming majority of them are crying out for us to protect the future of our democracy. that's why we must amend the
undemocratic rule that empowers 41 of 100 senators to disempower the majority of the people in our country. and i support the proposals put forward by our colleague from oregon, senator merkley, that takes us back to the original design and intent of the first senate and framers. debate. everyone gets a chance to make their point, convince your colleagues, convince the american people. but as james madison said, at the end of the day, a great democracy must have majority rule subject to the conditions already applied and set out in our constitution. so i urge my colleagues to join us in restoring the senate to its original purpose and then to pass the freedom to vote act, including the john r. lewis voting rights advancement act to protect our democracy. mr. president, i yield the floor.
advancement act. for the first time, thefirst time in this congress, democrats have tried for months to hold a voting rights debate on the floor we have blocked each time by republicans . we brought commonsense proposals four times on the floor of the senate and only once did one senator, lisa murkowski even begin to debate voting rights. everyone voted to block even debate on voting rights . so today we are taking this step by using the message from the house. now it's just a step but an important step moving forward in that we will finally debate this one issue that is so central to the american people , to our history and to our democracy. as we debate these measures, the senate will confront the
critical question: shall the members of this chamber do what is necessary to pass these bills and bring them closer to the president's desk? today we have just taken the first steps that will put everyone on the record. now, much has been said over the past few days about the prospects of passing voting rights legislation in this chamber. senate democrats are under no illusion that we face difficult odds, especially when virtually every senate republican, every senate republican is staunchly against legislation protecting the right to vote. but i want to be clear. when this chamber confronts a question this important, one so vital to our country, so vital to our ideals, so vital to the future of our democracy, you don't slide it off the table and say nevermind. when, lose or draw, members of this chamber are elected to debate and to vote.
especially on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as voting rights . and the public, the public is entitled to know where each senator stands on an issue as sacrosanct as defending our democracy. the american people deserve to see their senators go on record on whether they will supportthese bills or oppose them . indeed, that may be the only way to make progress on this issue now . for the public to see where each of us stands we are in a forum call. >> i asked that the quorum call be initiated. >>
whole host of reasons. the president's speech was almost universally panned, on the left even, on the right, in the center. i have not seen one u.s. senator come down on the floor this week to defend it. it will be interesting as we debate these issues. if anyone does. but i doubt there will be, and there are many reasons for this. as a speech by a president, it was remarkably divisive. in essence, calling every senator, democrat or republican, who doesn't agree with him, a racist and a traitor. read the speech. it was historically absurd, invoking the sacrifices of the civil war and heroes like abraham lincoln and villains like jefferson davis to present-day circumstances. it was profoundly
unpresidential, as senator mcconnell stated, rhetoric completely unbecoming of a president of the united states, and as an attempt to get senators, especially democrat senators, to vote the way in which president biden wants them to vote, it appears to have been a monumental failure. i wonder why, mr. president. well, of course, here's why. calling someone a racist and traitor is not the normal, logical route to try to persuade one to come over to your side. and neither, mr. president, is claiming that republican senators and republican legislators in states and republican state voting laws are so-called jim crow 2.0, when
your very own state's laws in terms of voting are some of the most restrictive in the country. this is a narrative i hope our friends in the media will keep an eye on during the debates this week. what am i talking about, mr. president? well, first and foremost, i'm talking about majority leader schumer and joe biden and their states -- new york and delawaref the most restrictive voting laws in america. let me repeat that -- some of the most restrictive voting laws in america come from the majority leader's state and the president of the united states' state. and yet, listen to their rhetoric. listen to their rhetoric.
republicans in republican states are, quote, jim crow 2.0. mr. president, i was on the floor last week talking in particular detail about my state's laws. we're all different states here, but i know my state's laws. i know them well as it relates to voting rights. and here's one thing i said last week -- in some of the most critical issues in terms of voting rights legislation, early in-person voting, automatic voter registration, and this chart here, no-excuse, absentee voting, the republican state of alaska, the great state of alaska has voting laws that are significantly more expansive than the laws of new york, than the laws of delaware, than the laws of connecticut, than the
laws of massachusetts, than the laws of new hampshire. it is a long list, mr. president. a long list. and you can see why senators like me, my constituents, in particular find it more than just a little bit annoying when you have these smug arguments of republican states being jim crow 2.0. let me give you another particular one as it relates to new york, the majority leader's home state. my state has no-excuse absentee voting. we've had that for many, many years. many years. now, the state of new york just had a statewide referendum to have same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting to meet the high standards that we have in alaska. now the people of new york recently rejected that.
i don't know why. i'm not from new york. i'm sure they had what they thought were good reasons to do that. but if the majority leader keeps coming down calling republican states that restrict voting jim crow 2.0, is he going to go to times square and call his own constituents jim crow 2.0 relative to my great state because they just rejected doing this, restricting voting rights according to the majority leader and the president of the united states. there's something really wrong here, mr. president, on these arguments. and it's not just new york, and it's not just me making these arguments about where other states are. and again, my argument here is not to say, well, everybody should be like alaska. in the constitution, the
founders gave the states the fundamental right and obligation and responsibility to design their state's laws in terms of voting. but what is really difficult to swallow is that so many of the arguments we're going to hear this week, we heard last week and we heard from the president of the united states come from elected officials, u.s. senators and the president, a former senator, who come from states who have some of the most least restrictive voting laws in the country. and again, mr. president, it's not just me making this argument. this is an article, mr. president, i submitted for the record last week from the "atlantic" magazine. not a republican mouthpiece by any measure. i'm going to read extensively from this article. it came out last year, because it really makes the point i'm trying to make.
quote, biden has assailed georgia's new voting law as an atrocity akin to jim crow in the 21st century for the impact it could have on black citizens. but even once the g.o.p.-passed measure takes effect, georgia's citizens will have far more opportunities to vote before election day than their counterparts in the president's home state. where one in three residents is black or latino. to republicans, biden's criticism of the georgia law smacks of hypocrisy. they have a point says duane benefiting, a voting advocate with the aclu affiliate. the state, the state of delaware, is playing catchup in a lot of ways. the article goes on,
mr. president. quote, delaware isn't an anomaly against president's date strong holds, it presents the president's party with an uncomfortable reminder. although democrats like to call out republicans for trying to suppress voting, the states they control in the northeast make casting a ballot more difficult than anywhere else. mr. president, i'm going to read that again. i'm going to read that again. because it's an issue that no one's talking about in a really -- and it really smacks of hypocrisy when i see some of my colleagues making had these great arguments about jim crow 2.0 in republican states. here it is again, the "atlantic," delaware isn't an anomaly against democratic state
strong holds and its example presents the president's party with an uncomfortable reminder. although democrats like to call out republicans for trying to suppress voting, the states they control in the northeast make casting a ballot more difficult than anywhere else. unquote. then the article goes on to say. quote, connecticut has no early voting at all. holy cow. my state has early voting. we had it for years. in new york's -- and new york's onerous rules force voters to change their registration months in advance if they want to participate in a party pry playery. alaska -- primary. alaska just changed that. the article goes on. in rhode island democrats enacted a decade ago the kind of
photo i.d. law that the democratic party has labeled, quote, racist, when drafted by republicans. a little bit of hypocrisy there. the article goes on. the state, rhode island, also requires voters to get the signatures of not one but two witnesses when casting an absentee ballot. only alabama and north carolina are similarly strict. the article goes on. according to a new analysis released this week by the nonpartisan center for election, innovation and research, delaware, connecticut, and new york rank in the bottom thirds of states in their access to early and mail-in balloting. and, as i just said, new york just rejected it again. you really wonder if the
majority leader is going to come down and call his citizens jim crow 2.0. mr. president, this is a very important issue. and here's the bottom line. before any of my democratic colleagues come to the floor this week with their insults, with their smug, offensive, inaccurate arguments about jim crow 2.0, racist, traitors, mimicking the president of the united states last week in georgia, i want my colleagues to come and answer this simple question, a very simple question. why should we listen to you? why should any american take you seriously?when so many of you come from states with the most restrictive voting laws in america? i wonder if any of my colleagues
the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. durbin: this past weekend, yesterday in particular, we celebrated dr. martin luther king jr. it's likely that if you attended any event in that celebration, you heard at least part of his "i have a dream speech." many of us in the chamber happily quoted it because of our
respect for him and the eloquence of the language of that moment. we like to remember the hopeful second half of that speech as well. because dr. king imagination a future where black children and white children play together and all people are judged, as he so famously said, not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character. how many of -- however, many of us forever get that -- many of us forget that 100 years after the emancipation proclamation the independence for black americans. he said, simply, it has -- it's a bad check that has come back marked insufficient funds. many democratic senators and
republican senators helped to change that act. it was in 1965 the united states senate voted 77-19, outlawing state practices denying millions of americans, particularly black americans, the right to vote. it is worth noting that it was a strong bipartisan vote and that percentagewise, a greater number of republicans than democrats voted in support of it. the white democrats from the south were notorious at that time for opposing it and opposing the civil rights movement. well, over the next nearly 50 years, the voting rights act was reauthorized five times, and that bipartisanship continued during the entire period. each new version of the voting rights act renewed the promise and the protections of that law, and each was signed -- each reauthorization was signed into law by a republican president. sadly, in more recent years,
things have changed in an awful way. we have witnessed a sustained effort to chip away the protections guaranteed to every american under the voting rights act of 1965. mr. president, i grew up in east st. louis, illinois, and a trip to st. louis was a big deal. and i can remember my mother, who was an immigrant to this country, had only an eighth-grade education, but self-taught herself. i can remember going to the court, the arch isn't there now, but where the arch is today is the famous st. louis courthouse and we would drive over the east bridge and she would say, you see that st. louis courthouse and all the steps you can see from here? they used to sell slaves on
those steps. i found it incredible that my mom would say that. she was not a historian or formally educated but she knew that and the significance of that building and it was the courthouse where the dred scott decision was made. i say that because the dred scott decision, that infamous decision handed down in 1857 may have been the tipping point for the civil war. a decision now viewed as nothing short of outrageous basically ruled that enslaved people, regardless of where they lived in the united states, could never be treated as american citizens and had no right to sue in the federal courts of america despite state decisions to have free states and slave states, despite the missouri compromise,
the supreme court and the dred scott decision came down clearly on the side of enslavement and said that the -- for example, the missouri court doctrine of once free always free did not help harriet and dred scott who lived in flee states as part of their lives. that decision by the supreme court was a seminole decision in our country and it was often noted in the events that played out. when i think of that decision, when i think of what has happened in recent years in the supreme court, nine years ago in 2013, the supreme court issued its decision in shelby county versus holder. that supreme court decision nullified a key provision of the voting rights act, section 5.
prior to the ruling in shelby county, section 5 required localities of disenfranchising due to color through poll taxing or literacy tests would have to seek federal approval to any changes in their polling rules, that is known as preclearance and it could have and i believe would have revented many of the -- prevented many of the restrictive voting rights in texas and georgia. the supreme court weakened another key section of the voting rights act with brnovich and d.n.c. with these destoressed -- disstorted rulings -- in fact, supreme court justice alina kagan wrote, quote, in the last decade this court has treated no statute worse than the voting rights act of 1965.
mr. president, you know what this -- that this happened across the united states in 19 different states. i think because of decisions like shelby and brnovich, these states have been emboldened. they don't believe that they're going to be held accountable for decisions they're making that restrict the right to vote the way they would have been before those decisions. and those who come to the defense of those states and their practices come to the floor of the senate and predictably argue states' rights, states' rights. i heard over the weekend on some of the talk shows -- i don't know if there's a copy in here. there is. i was hoping there would be a copy of the constitution in this desk i'm visiting but article 1, section 4 of our constitution is explicit for those who question whether or not it is the exclusive province of the states to establish standards for elections. and i'm going to read it. section 4, the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives
shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof. but the congress may at any time by lawmaker alter such regulations except as the place of choosing senators. of course then the amendments following the civil war, during and following the sif war -- civil war with went even further in terms of voting and the issue of race. it's very clear to me and you only have to read those simple words straightforward and direct in the constitution to realize that establishing standards for elections is not exclusively within the province of the state. in fact, just the opposite is true. when it comes to federal elections for representatives and senators, authority is given to us, to us, this senate and the house of representatives and of course through the signature of the president, the law is created that can establish standards and regulations. and yet members on the other side, members on the side of
president lincoln's political party, the republican party, now come to us at this moment in history and argue nullification and states rights. what a cruel tbis of fate -- cruel twist of fate that mr. lincoln's party which took such pride in the progress that was made after that deadly civil war and establishing civil rights is now defending almost to a person the activities of 19 different states that restrict voting rights. today our democracy needs the voting rights act of 1965 restored to its full power and potential. in the past year alone republican legislators in 19 state -- legislatures in 19 states have enacted laws making it harder for americans to vote. in total more than 440 bills with voting restrictions have been introduced in 49 states and more are on the way as the 2022 state legislative session gets under way. these efforts represent the most coordinated assault on voting rights since the voting rights
act was first passed under president lyndon johnson. the most troubling of these bills, the ones that just i find incredible, grant partisan actors the power to potentially meddle and interfere in election administration. now, where could they possibly have come up with that idea? that if you lose an election, you would contact the election authorities and ask them to change the results for your favor? where could they have come up with that idea or notion, that outrageous idea? perhaps in the recording that we have of the conversation between the leading election officials and president donald trump after he lost the election in 2020. that's exactly what he set out to do. and now in 19 states they were setting up a scenario for that same strategy and tactic to be followed if you're disappointed with the outcome of an election. arkansas and kansas have already passed laws that according to experts from states united
democracy center, protect democracy and law forward could be used to shift the power to decide elections to partisan political actors. in those states, the voters won't have the last word. the republican political leaders will. and legislatures in other states have introduced troubling bills with similar implication. for instance, in the state of arizona, state legislationors introduced three separate bills that according to the brennan center for justice, quote, would have directly empowered partisan officials to reject or overturn election results. it is an incredible outcome. more traditional attacks on the right to vote include efforts in michigan, for example, where a group of republican lawmakers are attempting to bypass the state's governor as well as the state's voters to enact a measure restricting voting rights. and of course in texas, the state enacted a bill known as s.b.1 which the brennan center called, quote, one of the
harshest restrictive voting bills in the country. one of the most troubling provisions of the law will make it harder for voters living with disabilities to receive the accommodations and assistance they need to exercise their right to vote. the members of this senate have a constitutional obligation to respond to these state voting laws. and that means ensuring that the constitutional right to vote is protected by federal law and fully enforceable. it also means establishing nationwide standards that ensure every eligible voter can participate in our democracy. these remedies and protections must be available in every state red and blue from new york to arizona. allow me to make one other point, mr. president. i've heard my republican colleagues make the argument we'll take a look at the states across the blue belt of america. states like delaware and new york. they don't go as far as the law that's being suggested by you democrats. for example, same-day
registration for those who want to show up and establish their voter registration on the day of the election. this bill is going to require it. state of new york doesn't have it. the state of delaware doesn't have it. in fact, the state of illinois doesn't have it either. well, my message to them is good. let them get it. it's a good, positive way to expand the opportunity to vote. many states have done it for years without problems. those who are lagging whether they're red or blue should come into the 21st century. it should be our mission, our singular mission before anything else to make sure that every eligible american has the right to vote, that we eliminate the burdens and obstacles, the tricks and traps that have been set up in all these states to make it so difficult. and we ought to be singularly be embarrassed as a nation as we look at the film and all the videos and all of the programs on election day that show african americans standing in line hour after weary hour to exercise their right to vote while many white voters just
scoot through in the same localities in the same states. there's something fundamentally wrong here and it's not just an accident. last year i joined with the bipartisan group of our colleagues to introduce the updated john lewis voting rights advancement act. this legislation would restore and strengthen the voting rights act of 1965, one of the most important pieces of legislation in american history. and truthfully, this should once again be a bipartisan unifying endeavor. it hasn't been that long ago that republicans and democrats stood together and agreed that this was the right thing to do, to make sure that there was no discrimination against american voters. the last time we did this was six years ago in 2006. and on a nearly unanimous basis. one of those republicans who voted -- i said six years ago. it's 16 years ago. one of the republicans who voted in support of it was the senior senator from kentucky, now the republican leader, who said at that time when he voted for the
reauthorization of the voting rights act in 2006, quote, this is a piece of legislation that has worked, close quote. well, let's make sure it can keep working. i hope that my colleagues will come together in a bipartisan fashion and join us in supporting the john lewis voting rights advancement act as well as freedom to vote act. join us in defending american democracy. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from washington. a senator: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. cantwell: thank you, mr. president. i was out here a little while ago talking about why it's so important for us to move forward and vote on the john lewis voting rights act and to uphold the voting rights of american citizens, something i feel very strongly about. i've had the good fortune to be in the united states senate since the year 2,000 and i -- 2000 and i got here -- i should say the election was in 2000. took the oath of office in 2001. i got here in an election that was decided by 2,229 votes. it took three weeks to decide the election. it took recounts. it took verification by counties. and, yes, the vote by mail
system which was pretty much the majority of votes at that point in time -- not everybody vote thad way but a big portion of votes at that time was a system that was starting to flourish in our state. and when i think about the year 2000 and the close election, i give thanks to my predecessor slade gordon for even though it was a close election, not contesting the election. if people remember, that was the same year that there was such a close election that people considered what was the outcome in florida. and yet al gore conceded the election to george bush. my point is that we're -- where have we gotten to today because all of those people, george bush, al gore, me, slade gordon, even though we had close elections, we had confidence in
the outcome of the election and we moved forward. we moved forward so much in fact that when our country was attacked just a few months la later, we all pulled together to work together to build a more secure nation. we didn't sit around and say, you know, slade gordon didn't sit around and say i lost my 2,229 votes. al gore didn't sit around and say he lost florida by so many votes and the votes weren't counted. no, we moved our country forward and here in the united states senate, we even discussed voting rights and we discussed our federal role, and we discussed what reforms we wanted to have in the system to build more confidence in our electoral system. we didn't disintegrate into voter suppression activities. i can't say that there wasn't some.
i now call it nostalgia. there were some who said oh, yeah, vote by mail. maybe we shouldn't have it. i remember one of our colleagues here on the senate floor, he was saying i so much like to go into the polling place. it's my patriotic duty. i like to sign my name. i like to get on with it. i don't want to get rid of that and i don't like vote by mail. well, myself and senator wyden, senator murray and others successfully defended vote by mail and we can see today where it has now been more embraced in the united states of america and more than a nostalgia that my friend had. trust me, i could say a lot of nostalgia about going into a voting place and voting. my childhood was spent getting the vote out because that's what you did in my family. you spent the day getting the vote out. you helped. i remember one year i said to my
father i'd miss too much school and i didn't want to miss anymore school and i had to go to school on election day. he told me there was no greater education than getting the vote out, and that i was going to be doing that. so, i can be nostalgic too, but right now, i'm proud of the 84% turnout in the state of washington in a president decks election year -- presidential election year thanks to vote by mail. and i'm proud that vote by mail, i think, is the antidote to the accusations that people have about a voting system that they think can be attacked by a foreign government or undermined in an electronic voting system. the fact that when you vote by mail you sign your name, both on the registration form, sign your name on the mail-in ballot, rip off a tab, basically mail in that ballot, and you have proof that you voted.
and your signature is the verification. i'm going to talk about that in a minute. your significance is the verification -- your signature is the verification that that system works. so, yes, i'm not very happy that we're here, because a lot of the tactics that we're hearing about around the united states of america is about limiting vote by mail. it's about trying to stop it or slow it down or raise accusations about how it doesn't work. and part of the initial establishment of preclearance in the united states in the 1965 voting rights act was about the great disparity that existed in the united states between states, that some states had very different turnouts than other states in a presidential election. maybe 20% or 30% different. and so people were starting to say how are you affecting us if some states aren't really empowering their citizens to vote, and the consequences is suppressing voter activity.
i definitely believe in the john lewis voting rights advancement act. i definitely believe that starting in 1965 we had disparity in states, and the way they voted, and we did something about it. and we did something about it because people were being discriminated against, and that was the premise of the law -- stop the discrimination. stop the discriminatory tactics that states were using to discriminate against people so that their votes couldn't be cast. and now we've updated that law many times over the last several decades in a bipartisan fashion, most of the time signed into law by republican presidents. so i don't get the stumbling block here. i don't get the stumbling block why people won't come to the table and help us write the next version of the 1965 civil rights act that is just called the 2022 civil rights act. i don't get it. i don't get why people aren't
coming to the table to do that. but i know this, that one of the big lies out there, and the republicans, i see my colleague was here from alaska, and i do feel a great affinity. people may not understand the relationship between the state of alaska and the state of washington, but it's a very true affinity. we come from the same part of the world. our economies are integrated. we have many people who live in both places. they share -- we share commonality of culture, of our environment, and my colleague from alaska was here talking about their vote by mail system. and so the fact that people are telling lies and trying to suppress the vote by suppressing vote by mail or calling it fraudulent is very frustrating. it's very frustrating, and it's one of the reasons we should come together in a bipartisan way and support vote by mail. we should be empowering people,
and particularly in a pandemic to cast a vote so that we know their voting is counted, so that we can have confidence we had an election and people spoke. here we have newt gingrich who said numerous times now, the biggest way to expand voter fraud is to expand vote by mail. now, he said that on fox news. it's been yoteed -- quoted in the paper. not once, several times. maybe they keep doing the same clip over and over again. then his next line, which i didn't put on a chart, is, and the democrats want universal access to vote by mail. well, not sure what's wrong with vote by mail. we're going to talk about that, because i'm not sure what's wrong with vote by mail. like, seriously. i've seen it over the 20 years i've been in office expanded in our state and in oregon and now used as the majority of the way
that people vote. and so i don't take kindly to his comments or to the former president's comments that somehow this is a fraudulent system. it's not. first of all, i got a lot of charts here, madam president, so you'll have to excuse us -- first of all, when you get a voter registration form for vote by mail it says, right on the form, you must be a citizen of the united states of america to vote. you must opinion 18 years old the next election, or -- yeah, or 18 before the special election. that's what it says right on the form. there's no mistaking about it. there's no if, ands, or buts about it. are you going to sign your name and attest to these issues. in fact, the attestation basically saying knowingly providing false information about yourself or the
qualifications for voter registration is a class c felony, punishable by imprisonment or a fine up to $10,000, or both. that's a pretty hefty fine. that's pretty serious issue. i don't think most people are going to say, oh, i want to help perpetrate voter fraud because i want to go to jail or i want to pay this fine. and the notion that somebody illegally in the united states is going to sign up for this, most of these people are just trying to earn an income and stay on a low profile. i don't think any of them, if you're an illegal immigrant and you sign up for vote by mail and you vote by mail, you will be deported. you will be deported. so, i don't think people are out there doing this voluntarily, because they think this is some great way to game the system. in fact, the statistics just done by a major report shows that there's less than 1% of voter fraud in this system.
it's not really this notion that the former president would like to perpetrate. well, the biggest reason why vote by mail works is what's here, but you don't see it. i guess i should sign my name, because right here i declare the facts on this registration form are true, i'm a citizen of the united states, i live at this address, for at least the last 30 days before i election, which i'm going to vote in, i'm old enough to vote in that election, and i understand that understand the jurisdiction of the department of corrections you can't currently be serving a sentence for a felony conviction or incarcerated for a -- or out-of-state federal conviction. okay right there, you have to sign your name right below that. so, this attestation and
requirement -- oh, by the way, part of the requirement on the form that you get is you also have to put in your driver's license or an i.d. now, in many states, you're moving to this driver's license, enhanced driver's license requirement, which have to prove you're a citizen of the united states. not every application you get a driver's license office you have to prove that, but this is the information on your voter registration card that you have to prove that you're attesting to the fact that you are a citizen of the united states. it is information that can be searched. so, now we come to the actual ballot. i don't know if we have a copy of the ballot here. well, we'll have to go grab one of those. but on your ballot you do the same thing. you get a ballot. your ballot has to have that
signature on it. you vote who you say you're going to vote for. you put it in a privacy envelope. you stick it in another envelope. and you mail it in. so, at the county auditor they match that signature that you signed on your voter registration card with the signature on that ballot. and that is how they know you are who you say you are. now, that's no different really from most of the way voting has worked in our country for decades. when you go into the polling place they ask you for your name. you go to a book, if you noticed, your name and address were there, in a blank space, and they say sign your name. most americans probably never noticed at the top of that page was also an attestation that said if you're lying about who you are, yeah, you're going to pay a fine and you're going to jail. so, when you went to a polling place and you signed your signature, they went back and saw it was the signature that you had on your registration
card. so, vote by mail is replicating that same system. an application card matched to a signature on your ballot. and that is what happened. now, that is not to say there isn't attempts at fraud. not to say that there isn't attempts at monkey business. because there is. but it says the system is based on something that is safe and secure and can be validated. i'm going to shock some people, i'm sure, by saying this, but when i went to vote in the last election somebody had requested several ballots in my name. several ballots in my name. i'm sure it was ill intent. there was nothing good about it. and when you look -- i looked to see that they hadn't counted my ballot, even though i had voted very early in the process, i became alarmed and called the auditor and said why haven't you counted my ballot? and he said several people have
filed ballots under your name. i'm sure ill intent and monkey business by somebody. so, i decided i'm going down to the courthouse to see what this was all about. but by the time i got there the auditor had sorted it out and said i found the one signature that matches your signature, and we've counted your ballot. so, they hadn't done that, they probably threw it in a pile, oh, we got ten ballots under this name. whatever it was. why did that happen? i don't know. but i know the system worked because he pulled them all aside, and when he got to it they matched my name with the ballot that existed. now, for us in washington, because we've had some very close elections, the vote-by-mail system has got a lot of scrutiny. we got a lot of scrutiny in a governors race a few years after
i got elected, and the race got down to several hundred votes, really, i think in the end. it was several hundred votes. and you know, we had people admitting that they had voted for dead spouses. we had all sorts of things at the end, when people knew that the level of -- most elecks aren't that close -- most elections aren't that close, but when you're down to hundreds of votes and you know that there's going to be scrutiny, the system works. it doesn't mean there won't be a mistake somewhere and that you won't have to redo the count and find it. it doesn't mean that there's absolutely zero, zero, zero fraud. it means that there's a system based on a safe and secure measure and that you can go back and check it. now, i love our vote-by-mail system and the voters are proving it, at 84% turnout in the last presidential election. sometimes in off-year elections we get as hive as -- high as 70%
turnout. who is not for empowerment and enfranchisement of people? apparently newt gingrich isn't, because he think it's a scenario where we're going to try to take over the world, when in reality i would say it's the next phase of voting, particularly in an era of pandemic and that we need to have our elections be more secure. i would say that if people are going to fool around and create distrust in your election system, having a system where you get to tear off a tab and keep it at home and know that tur ballot was -- that your ballot was cast and that you can count it and count it again, in my election when i won by 2,229 votes, the tallies weren't the same each time. they weren't. it changed. it didn't mean they were wrong. it just meant that various mistakes were made, they verified their work, and they
were corrected. but my predecessor did not undermine the united states democracy by claiming he lost. he didn't go out and try to pass voter suppression laws. he came back here and worked on the 9/11 commission with all of us and tried to defend our country. but that's not where we are today. we're here with mr. trump, if president trump, and madam president, you know, on january 6 i sat outside and listened to the president. i really thought i'm going to go ahead give a speech that night -- i had no idea what was going to happen to us. i thought i was just going to speak on the floor that night. i thought that was it. i had no idea that we were going to face an insurrection. i was taking notes. i thought i was going to give the speech. turns out i didn't get to give that speech. we had kind of a truncated session that night. we give a few speeches. a few people talked. but we didn't give a big speech.
i've been waiting to give this speech for a long time. i've been waiting to refeudate what the president said at his rally for a long time. the reason is because i cannot stand to have our election system, the basis of our democracy, the basis of our country, why we're the gold standard around the world, i'm not sure anybody should go on a codele anymore to within an election in another country until we get our election system right here. what are you going to sigh when you get there? who's -- what are you going to say if you're going to go to another country and witness their election? we know how to do it in the united states? because right now we're not proving that. we're showing that we can't move forward on the john lewis voting rights act. let's go over what president trump said that night. because president trump said that -- his first claim that the
michigan secretary of state flooded the state with unsolicited mail-in ballots sent to everybody on the rolls in direct violation of state law. that's what he said last -- that's what he said. that's what he said at his rally. go down there. go down there. you know, there's moments in this craziness, there's moments in this craziness when you realize there are people who will stand up. and i'm not trying to embarrass anybody, but i was probably the last person to leave this chamber, and the parliamentarian refused to let anyone touch the ballots, even though she could barely walk down the hall, even though she could barely carry all those supplies. she knew that allowing anybody else to touch these
certifications of the election would give somebody the claim that somehow somebody had interfered. so people were doing their job, but in this case, the secretary of state, in response to a 2018 vote by the people of michigan -- they approved in a vote by the people a no-excuse absentee voting law. that's what the people of michigan voted for. so the secretary of state sent out ballots. some people didn't like that. some people challenged it. and in september of 2020, the michigan court of appeals upheld the decision that the secretary of state, citing the constitution and their authority over elections, that they had the authority to the mail those ballots.
the supreme court of michigan didn't take up that case. they didn't refute it. so it's false. he's trying to say mail-in ballot applications were illegally sent. it's not true. the people voted for it. the secretary of state did her job. the courts upheld it. he tried to say 17,000 ballots were cast by deceased voters. okay ... i mean, to say nothing of the fact that there are probably a lot of people with the name of john brown in michigan. there's a lot of people by the same name. but there is a system that uses the social security administration to flag death of deceased voters, and ballots in this case who have died are not counted in the michigan election. in the state of washington, if you cast a ballot and you mailed
it and you died two days later and the election is not until a month later, your vote counts. now, your spouse can't cast it after you die and say, my wife intended to vote for so-and-so. but once you fill the ballot out and you put it in the mailbox or ballot box, your vote is good, even if you die the next day. that's our state. in michigan, no. so they did not do this. they did not have this claim that the president had. and then -- then he claimed the turnout in wayne county was 137% of registered voters. or 139%, somewhere in there. also not true. in wayne county it was 61% of the vote of more than 1.4 million registered voters. so all that he said about michigan that night was false.
it was false. and the courts upheld it. it was just a big lie. let's go to the presiding -- let's go to the president's state. let's go to wisconsin. trump claimed 170,000 absentee ballots were counted without a valid absentee ballot application. now, the president knows that your state is infamous -- famous, appreciate the for same-day voting, and in milwaukee, a total of 170,000 people did vote absentee ballot in person in oto2020 election -- in the 2020 election. they filled out an absentee ballot application, located in on the envelope like i showed, and sent in the ballot.
so they know who those people are. they know that they were legitimate voters. they didn't vote without an application. they filled out the application as well. so this, too, is part of the big lie. and then trump claimed that 100,000 ballots were backdated by u.s. postal workers. that's what he claimed. the u.s. postal service inspector general investigation to the allegations in all of the usps workers and contractors refuted these allegations. there was no evidence -- there was no evidence. there was no evidence that that occurred. and then the famous thing that the other side of the aisle constantly talks about -- which i just don't -- i don't understand -- ballot harvesting. they think that somehow this is
going to lead to ballot harvesting. so donald trump claimed that madison had 19,000 ballots were collected by human dropboxes. don't even know what a human dropbox is. i don't know what he means by a human dropbox or operatives. well, facing influx, madison and the city clerk held a pair of events in which people could go to a park and drop off their absentee ballots at stations set up and staffed by poll workers. what is wrong with us if we're trying to make it harder to vote in america? what is the premise? if the premises you want to certify that people are actual citizens of the united states, great. we have a system. if you want to certify they live there, great, we have a system. we have a fine, we have a penalty, we have a way to investigate them, we have a way to catch fraud.
so what is it? you just with aens to make it harder to -- you just want to make it harder to vote in no, no, no. democracies are about enfranchising the vote. it is a constant effort. the same things we did in 1920 don't apply in 2020. in 2020, it is an information age, and we had a pandemic. what is wrong with making the vote available to people? so the ballot harvesting that he claims did not happen. that's also part of his speech that night. he went on for 45 minutes. he went on for 45 minutes whipping people up to come down here and attack the capitol based on these lies that weren't true, big lies that weren't true. then he went 0 on to georgia -- then he went on to georgia. he claimed over 10,000 ballots in georgia were cast by individuals whose names and birth dates matched georgia residents who died in 2020 prior
to the election. he later revised that down. he was, wait, that's too high. he said it was 5,000 t the state election board conducted a comprehensive investigation of deceased voters submitting ballots and found four cases -- four cases. four cases. again, i don't know what georgia's law is. i don't know if it's like washington, i don't know if it's like michigan'sment, i don't know what it's like but they found four people. but it wasn't 5,000, it wasn't 10,000. trump claimed that there were 66,000 people that were under the age of 18 who voted. i think this has gotten a lot of attention because i think there's been some public accounting of this in the press. i think the secretary of state refuted this several times. but in general the secretary of
state said that there were zero individuals under the -- under 18 who voted in the election based upon a comparison of people who voted in the 2020 election in georgia to their full birth dates. so that also was refuted. and then -- and then trump claimed -- i showed you that attestation on the washington ballot, the certification that you have to sign, what it says. you can't vote if you're ink cars rated or a -- if you're incarcerated or a felon. so trump claimed that there were 2,500 ballots cast by incarcerated felons in georgia prison. so there was no mass incarcerated voting of felons. they did investigate and did find 74 potential felons who they think could have cast a
ballot. and guess what happened? they pulled them, so they weren't counted. that's how the system works. that's how the system works. that's what you're supposed to do. that's why you have the system. so just like the other states -- no, those voter claims were false. okay, let's go to arizona. also another claim. he's made a lot of claims since then, but i'm just focusing on the ones mostly from that evening because that's what sent people down here and now that's what sent us on where we are with candidates all across america pledging trump-think to run for office, which is undermining our election system and undermining our democracy. and all i want is our colleagues to work together on the john lewis voting rights act. that's all i want.
like this can't be more tumultuous than 1965. i'm not saying that he isn't -- the former president isn't stirring up a lot. he is. but i got to believe that we can work together. so he said 36,000 ballots were illegally cast by noncitizens. madam president, why am i going through this? because i get a little tired of everybody just saying, oh, the courts decided, the courts decided. he was wrong, the courts decided. he was wrong. no, people need to have faith in the system. would end to work to build faith in the system. we need to work in a bipartisan fashion to build faith in the system, and we need to stop the discrepancies between states. 2020 country-out in washington for -- 87%. alaska, 60%, west virginia, 63%. georgia, 66%.
wisconsin, 72%. i don't know, i think it's probably a little higher. i don't know. preclearance was based on that there was 20% difference in states voting. 20% difference still exists today. how are we working to protect our democracy and enhance voting rights if we're here trying to suppress those rights through these various state actions? so in arizona, the president said 36,000 ballots were illegally cast by noncitizens. well, i showed you that attestation that you have to sign that basically says you're going to jail or you're going to be deported or you're going to pay a fine, and in arizona, the supreme court basically had previously struck down a law requiring that proof and so they
did submit proof of their application -- they do submit and attest to their citizenship. so they do attest to their citizenship and since then arizona has further enhanced their laws. 22,000 ballots were countried that were -- were returned to be scheduled to be mailed out. i like this. as if they all don't have a bar code on them. they all have a bar code on them that you know where they are. they have a number on them. but because we have so many people who vote overseas or vote even here in the washington, d.c., area, some of my staff here get a ballot earlier than i would get a ballot at my home in edmonds, washington, and the reason is because they life here and it takes -- they live here and it takes a long time to get the ballot and get it back to the secretary of state. so they're probably referring to
ballots that were being mailed out. the claim was really just a misreading of data that parties that mailed in the ballot on the first day that literally could have been overseas ballots before the ballots actually went out because a previous batch of ballots were already sent. there was a claim that there were more than 11,000 ballots cast, the numbers of registered voters in the same state in the 2020 election. the secretary of state reported 3.4 million votes were cast, 79%. so there weren't more -- there might have been at some moment. i mean, one of the things that you see in close elections, particularly in our state because it takes a long time to count vote by mail because,
again, you're doing the verification of signatures, is counties willies how many ballots -- will list how many ballots that they have left. no county ever overestimates how many ballots they have. they don't know because you're still getting them in because of the vote by mail. nobody says they have more ballots than they do because everybody is going to say where are those ballots so people underestimate the number of ballots. the consequence is you have different numbers that come in every day. it doesn't mean there's something wrong with the system. the system, again, based on your signature, on your registration, on your attestation. again, it's not to say there won't be less than a decimal percent of 1% fraud. there will be some things that happen but it's not pervasive to the system. there's a way to catch them. there a is a way to penalize them. some were registered in maricopa
county without voter registration deadline after the deadline had passed. a federal judge basically in that case cited the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, and there were 20,000 ballots that basically were registered after october 5. the court legally extended that deadline because of covid-19. so the notion that these were all illegal, you may not have liked the court decision -- i know the former president does not like the court decision, but this is what the court decided in these cases. these are what voters decided, what states decided. he just doesn't like the outcome of the system. and the reason why we're here today on the john lewis voting rights act and to try to pass these laws is because our
country based on a democracy knows that enfranchisement, voter enfranchisement is something that we have to constantly be working for. i talked about a couple of companies earlier. i'd like to talk about a few more if i could. the reason i'm saying this is because right now we need to unite the free press, the business community, the general public, everybody we can to say let's get behind free and fair elections. let's get behind the verification of the system. and let's strengthen the democracy we have in the united states of america. but what did best buy say? they support the john lewis act. they say, quote, an election cannot be free or fair if every
eligible voter is not given a full chance to vote or if the law exists that make it harder for them to do so. michael dell basically said, quote, those rights, especially for women, communities of color, have been hard-earned. government should ensure citizens have their voices heard. hb-6 does the opposite, and we're opposed to it. paypal, an organization, quote, the passage of the john lewis voting rights advancement act of 2021 is pending now in the united states senate and will be an important step towards making free and fair access to voting a reality for all. these are all corporations who know the importance of doing business in the united states,
the importance of a democracy, and they've got to be scared about what they're seeing. they got people coming up on stages in rallies all over the united states basically saying i will overturn the 2020 election. do you think people want to do businesses in countries like that? no. people want to do business in stable countries where you have a free and fair election and you keep going. that's the beauty of the democracy, the people have spoken, as i talked about earlier. microsoft, they're really trying to rally everybody. quote, we hope that companies will come together and make it clear that a healthy business requires a healthy community, a healthy community requires that everyone have the right to vote conveniently, safely, and securely. so they obviously, they obviously get it. they know what this is about.
sales force, another organization, they basically have said as voting rights have come under attack in places like georgia and texas, we have used our platform to advocate for the right to vote based on nonpartisan principles and action. let's go, the greater phoenix g.p.l. leadership. disenfranchising voters is not election reform. these efforts are misguided and must be defeated. and this was in an op-ed opposing arizona senate bill 1485, 1593 and 1713. and it was signed by 50 arizona business leaders. the reason i'm saying this is because these businesses right
now are leading the charge on efforts to try to stop these voter suppression tactics in states, and they're trying to tell us, hey, you guys do the same thing here, please. you guys please join the effort and do the same thing here, please. there's another, well, coke-cola, i think they have been pretty clear, although we should see what they say. this is a statement on georgia's voting legislation. they say we want to be crystal clear and state unambiguously that we are disappointed in the outcome of georgia's voting legislation. our focus is now supporting federal legislation that protects voting access and addresses the voter suppression across the country. major league baseball, they have been pretty clear on this.
there's been quite a debate about this. it happened, you know, -- i don't know what's going to happen, madam president, this week. i don't know what's going to happen. but i know when we raised questions about the washington football team and spoke directly to the team, we said this is the wrong approach. you need to change. they said we don't want to. in the end, the business community supported by many native american organizations, the business community told the washington team it was time to change. so the business community is telling us here, do not suppress the rights of voters in the united states of america. so we may not be successful here, but i guarantee you the business community will continue to be loud about this because
they know that voter suppression and undermining democracy is undermining healthy communities here in the united states. so major league baseball fundamentally supports the rights for all americans and opposes restrictions at the ballot box. and the black economic alliance alliance, this was a statement on the georgia voting legislation signed by 72 black economic and business leaders. quote, while the use of police dog, poll taxes, literacy tests and other overtly racist voter suppression tactics are a thing of the past, georgia and other states are rushing to impose new and substantial burdens on voting laws following an election that produced record turnout for both parties. the disproportionate racial impact of these allegedly, quote, neutral laws should neither be overlooked nor
excused. the stakes for our democracy are too high to remain silent or on the sidelines. so, madam president, all of these organizations -- i want to just end with one last one, the civic alliance. the civic alliance is an organization signed by 1,200-member companies that basically said, quote, if our government is going to work for us, for all of us, each of us must have equal freedom to vote and elections must reflect the will of the people. we cannot elect leaders in every state capital and congress to work across the aisle. we call on elected leaders in every capital and in congress to work across the aisle and ensure that every eligible american has the freedom to easily cast their ballot and participate fully in our democracy.
so these are, these are the statements of people who are ringing the bell of concerns about voter suppression across the united states of america. these are the people who are saying it's time for us to act. they're not saying figure it out in a few years. they're not saying this is something you can deal with later. they're asking us to act now. usually the business community doesn't get that involved in stating legislation by house and senate bill numbers. they usually don't do that. they're usually a little more r.e.s. sent. they're -- reticent. they're not reticent now because they know doing business in a democracy is way better than in some scenario of voter suppression. so i ask my colleagues to join us in getting this done. i see my colleague who's been the leader on this effort overall, the senator from minnesota, and i thank her for her leadership on this issue. this has been a hard-fought
battle and something she has put a lot of energy into, and i want to personally thank her for that leadership and continuing to fight this fight. madam president, i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: madam president. the presiding officer: the senior senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: i first want to thank my colleague from the state of washington, senator cantwell, for her passion for the people and the rights of people to vote, and her willingness to actually go through the details of the groups outside of this congress that feel so strongly about this, including businesses, as pointed out, who understand that you can't do business overseas, having just come back from ukraine, that i just arrived an hour ago, and uphold democracies overseas. if we are allowing our democracy to go to shambles by allowing voter suppression laws to pass as they have in numerous states across the country. just this week we mark the life
and legacy of dr. martin luther king jr., and today we are considering legislation that goes to the very heartbeat of the democracy, the freedom to vote, that so many have fought and died for. we're here because a flood of state laws to roll back voting has surged up since the 2020 elections. and in the middle of a pandemic, americans cast a ballot, more of them cast a ballot than ever before. they were willing to take those risks, and the laws wering changed in red states and blue states and purple states to allow them to do that. but now what do we see? a roll back. a rollback in the presiding officer's great state of wisconsin. we see rollbacks attempted across the nation, in places like montana, same-day registration in place for 15 years, 8,000 people took avail
of it in the last election to either change their address or register that way. so then what happens? the republican legislature in montana, why don't we get rid of something we've had in place for 15 years. why don't we do that? guess what that creates, my friends. maximum confusion and ultimate voter suppression. with that core freedom of voting now at stake, it is on us to stand up, to take up the torch that dr. king and so many brave americans carried decades ago and act to preserve the foundational right of our democracy. and while that may sound like an ambitious task, it is one within our reach. by passing the freedom to vote john r. lewis act, we can meet these challenges and turn back the tide. today i want to address a topic that has loomed large over this historic debate, and that has to do with the very rules of this chamber. this week every member of the
senate will have a chance to cast a vote that will determine if this is a legislative body that will rise to meet a test. the test is participation and voting. the test is actually being able to take on the issues of our day. it won't be the first time. our republican colleagues have blocked us from considering legislation for the freedom to vote. we're here because ella baker, who worked alongside some of the great leaders of the civil rights movement, we who believe in freedom cannot rest. while much has been made of our colleagues in an effort to change the senate rules. we must remain steadfast in the truth that the right to vote is not negotiable. we must forge ahead. i want to start by responding to
some of the points that have been raised as reasons not to move forward on this legislation at a watershed movement and to protect the most sacred of rights, the right to vote. some have allowed it -- would be a mistake. that would open the door to somehow leading it to wild swings in federal policy. i'm trying to imagine anything involved in this thing, given how slowly we go and how many people want to make sure we're kawfl in how we -- calf in how we -- careful with how we change laws. the filibuster or cloture is not in the constitution. legislatures across the land, some of whom do good things, do use a 60-vote threshold, democracies across the world do
not use a 60-vote threshold. we have tried to persuade -- to debate it. but what they do is they throw a wrench into the process and then basically walk out that door and go home. we don't have that debate that allows us to have amendments and allows us to ultimately have a vote on the bill. it is cut off from a vote. when you look at the past when it comes to voting rights. it has been bipartisan not even that long ago. but this time -- this time even reauthorizing the voting rights act, something that has been the law of the land, supported on a bipartisan, as the president of the united states pointed out when he was in atlanta. this time, no. only one republican, senator murkowski, of alaska, was willing even to allow the john lewis bill to come up for a vote.
if our colleagues across the aisle will not work with us, it does not mean we should give up. a simple look at history makes that clear. as representative clyburn noted, there have been moments in history twh has not been defended on a bipartisan basis. that's a right for the bills to come up. he pointed to the 15th amendment that as he said was a single-party vote that gave black people the right to vote. and that does not make the 15th amendment any less legitimate. i would say to my colleagues, the real threat facing our country isn't too much legislation, it's the gridlock and the stalemate in which this chamber is stuck. a number of us were just in ukraine, standing up for democracy, standing up for the right of people across the world to be able to debate issues and make decisions on the most pressing issues of that time and now we are back here in this
chamber and we have to have that opportunity as well. this misses another key point in the arguments made against changing the rules. when politicians actually have to vote on stuff, voters can hold them accountable for these votes. we know that the policies in the freedom to vote act have been adopted in red and blue and purple states. look at places like utah. for years, mail-in balloting, in other states you have to get a notary to get an application or a witness just to get an application, even if you have covid and you're in a hospital. yet, in many states, red, blue, purple, this is in place. we believe, those of us who support the voting rights act, that congress can make or alter the law regarding federal
elections, this should be the law of the land. it is constitutionally supported, and americans, no matter what their zip code should have a right to vote in the best way for them. arguing senate rules are more important than the right to vote ignores the history of this nature. as senator king reminded us, in 1890, henry -- the bill passed the house but blocked by the senate with a filibuster. he argued that the senate should get rid of the filibuster saying, to vote without debating is perilous, but to debate a never vote is imbecile. and due toll repeated filibusters, congress couldn't pass legislation to enforce the 15th amendment until nearly 70 years later through the civil rights act of 1957.
we've also heard that allowing one party to insist on virtually unlimited debates, you can't vote, is an essential part of the senate. but experts from both parties said this isn't true. as marty gold, who worked for republican leader howard baker and staff director of the senate rules committee has written, the possibility that a minority of senators could hold unlimited debate on a topic against the majority's will was unknown in the first senate. those are his words. other argued that requiring a supermajority, as this filibuster does now, to pass legislation was an intentional effort to foster compromise. but the historical record doesn't back that up. the constitutional convention heard but did not adopt a proposal to require a supermajority for legislation. the framers explicitly decided to reserve supermajority requirements for things like constitutional amendments, treaties and impeachment.
to quote one of them, benjamin franklin wrote, that a system where the minority overpowers the majority would be contrary to the common practice of assemblies in all countries and agents. thomas jefferson wrote in a letter to james madison, it is my principle that the will of the majority should always prevail. james madison was a fierce defender of minority rights but in 1834 he wrote, the vital principle of republican government is the will of the majority. listening to those words, does it really seem that the framers of the constitution envisioned a system where a minority of senators could stop the vote, stop the consideration, throw a wrench into a process, take it off the rails and then just walk out the door and go home? that is not what they envisioned. i also want to be clear, updating the senate rules to meet the needs of this moment isn't some radical break with
pass precedent. throughout the senate's history, when faced with unrelenting obstruction from the majority, the senate has changed senate rules to allow matters to con cliewrd, be -- conned clued, -- conclude, be voted on. when it was first established in 1917, the cloture rule has been revised multiple times to make it easier to end debate and force a vote. for friends watching at home, this is what it means, a cloture motion is what allows senators to bring something to a vote, under the current rules, it takes 60 senators to open debate to pass pa bill. here is how it has changed over time. in 1949, cloture was extended to cover all issues pending before the senate, not just bills. in 1975, the vote threshold for cloture was reduced to three-fifths of all senators, in 1979, total postcloture debate
was limited to 40 hours and then to 30 hours and it has been further reduced for various nominees, most recently by our republican colleagues across the aisle. this isn't something from 100 years ago. this isn't something from before we had cars and people were arriving here on horseback. this just happened. in addition to changes to the cloture rule itself, the senate has put in place exceptions to the rule. over time the senate has established over 160 processes and statute that doesn't require 60 votes for cloture to end debate. in other words, you get to a vote without the 06 votes. as a result -- 60 votes. as a result, we have expedited procedures, including reconciliation to pass spending and tax legislation, the congressional review act to block regulations, disapproval
of arms sales. i guess someone decided that was okay to do for less than 60 votes, even approving compensation plans for commercial space accidents doesn't require 60 votes, my friends. but while the 60-vote threshold was carved up 160 times so senators could pass things like tax cuts under president trump, block nominations and supreme court justices, when it comes to voting rights, we are told that traditions and comity means that we should hug it tight, this old rule, throw senators under desks and go home. it is no wonder that this rings hollow when their priorities, such as tax cuts, such as a supreme court nominee can be passed with a simple majority time and time again, the majority in the u.s. senate has had to change rules to pass major legislation.
as senator merrick noteddings -- merkley noted, bills we passed include the national gas policy act in 1977, funding for the federal service system in 1980, deficit reduction legislation in 1985, a moratorium on listing new species under the endangered species act in 1995 and the change in 1996 to the reconciliation process which paved the way for the 2001 and 2003 bush tax cuts and the 2017 trump tax cuts. when circumstances change, senators have changed the rules time and time again. all of this history shows that the senate rules are not chiseled in stone. that's probably a good thing. the people out there needs us to do our job and maybe that is more important than some archaic
rules. these are -- they are not an outside rule, they are our rules, the senators' rules, but also the people's rules, written and changed by senators representing the people of this country, just like the ones sitting in this chamber today. as we move forward, i want to make clear that i agree with my colleagues who have said, we must keep the history of this institution in mind. by the way, i just gave you the history of this institution, 160 carve votes, time and time again when the rules had changed. that is the true history of this institution. his -- history plainly allows for the type of action that our democracy demands. if we don't protect the freedom to vote and acknowledge the history of the rules of this body, i am left with the conclusion, we must update change and improve our rules to restore the senate and meet the
moment of our times. our nation was founded on the ideals of democracy and we've seen for ourselves in this building how we can't afford to take that for granted. i certainly saw that this weekend in ukraine. we cannot afford to take any democracy for granted. the world is watching us. watching to see how america is taking on the challenges of the 21st century, including the threats to our democracy. around the globe there are those who see weakness in our opportunity. they see weakness in our democracy as an opportunity to them. they hope that the gridlock are the defining future. you can imagine what -- what world leaders i'm thinking of. if we're going to effectively compete with the rest of the world, we need a senate that can do more than just respond to crisis is. we are good at that, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, financial
crisis, pandemics, okay, we -- respond to that. what about the long-term challenges slowly and surely eroding the democracy with voter suppression. there is so much at stake here. we must get this done. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that following the remarks of senator
mr. portman: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: mr. president, i was asked recently what i think is the number one issue facing america. it's a tough question. i had a lot of issues race through my mind. inflation, the debt, workforce issues, the crisis at our southern border, the explosion of covid cases, the deadly opioid epidemic, a warming planet, russia and china flexing their muscles and creating more volatility around the world. we've got plenty of challenges,
don't we? but you know what i landed on what i think is our biggest problem? it's the increasing division, even polarization of our politics and our country. it's what makes it so hard to address all those other issues that i named that are so important to the families who we represent. last week on the senate floor my democratic colleague from arizona, senator sinema, called it a disease of division. well put. when we're together this country can achieve great things and has over the years. it can provide a beacon of hope to a troubled world. but as lincoln warned a house divided against itself cannot stand. in this body we should be figuring out how to come together to help america stand and stand strong tom address our many challenges. that's why i'm so discouraged by
what i see playing out on the u.s. senate floor again this week. i've seen attempt by democratic leadership to fan the flames of distrust. i've seen an attempt to further divide an already splintered country. both by exaggerated arguments being made to advance controversial legislation opposed by every single republican regarding the tough issue of voting and then toll try to achieve this purely partisan objective by changing a foundation of the senate, did to dismantle the one senate rule, the legislative filibuster that works to bring us together rather than pull us apart. equally troubling to me is this seems to be a purely political exercise now in that the conclusion seems predetermined. apparently the senate is being dragged through this divisive and ugly partisan debate knowing that it will not achieve a legislative result but only a deepening and hardening of the
political lines in each camp. here in the senate most republicans and most democrats say they want to bring the country together. i think they're sincere about that. this message was an explicit part of president biden's campaign for president yet there is nothing about the harsh partisan rhetoric from the president's speech on this topic in atlanta last week or much of the floor debate this week and last week that does anything but push our country further apart. first the substance of the legislative fight. democrats have been highly critical of those republicans who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election pointing out accurately that dozens of lawsuits failed to show adequate fraud to change the result. they have attacked some republicans because they said the election was rigged for questioning the state-by-state certification process that has
led to deeper arrives in our -- rifts in our nation and a significant number of republican voarts questioning the legitimacy of the election. i get that. so why now are democratic leaders and president biden using the exact same language? literally saying the elections are rigged. literally saying that. why are they perpetrating their own election narrative that does not fit the facts but serves to push both sides deeper into their own camps and in particular now leads democrats to think elections are illegitimate. the majority leader schumer claims and i quote, quote, republicans are pushing voter suppression and election nullification laws. president biden has compared state efforts to tighten up election administration to jim crow laws. compared republicans to notorious racists in our history. these attacks are overwrought.
exaggerated, and deeply div divisive. here's what the nonpartisan and respected group called no labels has said about the democratic attacks. and i quote, if you dig into these state legislative proposals, you'll find most entail tightening up procedures pertaining to registration, mail-and absentee voting and voter i.d. laws that were hughesened in 2020 in the name of making it easier for people to vote. commentators have described these measures at jim crow 2.0 which is to say they're somehow worse than the original jim crow era which entailed poll taxes and literacy tests, violent intimidation of black voters by the k.k.k. and even outright prohibition of black voters participating in primaries in southern states. to suggest any measures being debated in america are somehow worse than
this is simply irresponsible demagoguery, end quote. that comes from no labels, which is a nonpartisan group -- democrats and republicans -- trying to find that middle ground. now, to be fair, this group has been critical of republican claims of widespread election fraud that cannot be backed up. so what are the actual facts? first, the constitution guarantees all citizens 18 years of aiming or older the right to vote in -- age or older the right to vote. in 2006, congress voted in a bipartisan way to reauthorize this important law for 25 years through 2031. i voted for and strongly support the voting rights act and have long supported other commonsense efforts to increase voter confidence in our lengths.
there is a bipartisan effort under way right pluto deal with a right problem to enshould you are that after the fact certified elections are respected. this will require making overdue reforms through the electoral count act and some other reasonable updates to federal election procedures. i'm happy to be working with a small group of senate democrats and senate republicans on those efforts. that's how the system should work. we're not going to agree on everything, but we can sit down and talk and find common ground to address problems. what republicans and most americans don't support is an unprecedented federal takeover of our election system, which is what the overly broad party-line bills proposed this week by the democrats will do. let me be clear, despite what democratic leaders are saying to jam these bills through congress, our democracy is not, as they say, in crisis because it is too hard to vote. we just had a national election
in 2020 with the highest voter turnout in 120 years. 94% of voters said it was easy for them to vote. this is according to the pew research center. 94%. that's good. some have said drastic changes are needed at the federal level because the states are now enacting voter restrictions. some point to the liberal brennan center which reports that 19 states have enacted laws which it characterized as restricting the right to vote. as noted above, again by the nonpartisan no labels group, when you really look at these laws, the truth is that they largely make modest chaplains in election law administration such as the date that voters may apply for mail-in ballots for ensuring voters are who they say they are through signature requirements, something the vast majority of americans support.
some of the laws return the practices closer to the status quo before the pandemic. as an example, some laws reduced the number of ballot drop boxes. in many states, many of the democrats are enacting laws similar to those who have long been in place in states represented by democrats, so-called blue states. for example, under its new law, georgia has a limit of 17 days of in-person early voting, 17 days. new jersey and new york have nine days of in-person voting. connecticut doesn't have any early voting. georgia has also added one extra saturday of early voting. georgia's new requirement that voters provide their drivers' license or state i.d. numbers when applying for mail-in ballots is the same as laws in maryland and pennsylvania. rhode island enacted a voter
i.d. law a decade ago, and with regard to president biden's home state, the atlantic has noted that few states have more limited options than delaware, end quote. i frankly have not heard democratic leadership calling out any of these democrat majority states for pushing what they deem to be voter suppression. i don't know anyone who doesn't believe it should be easy to vote and hard to cheat. every state has to find that balance, but they have to find it while not violating the voting rights act. i don't agree with every policy that every state has in place. i find some too restrictive. i support no-fault absentee voting as we have in ohio. it works well. you don't have to have a reason. you can vote absentee. i'd like to see every mailbox be a ballotbox. i find that some of the laws in some of the states lack adequate
security, on the other hand. for example, i think some form of i.d. is smart, as do the vast majority of americans. but in our federal system, within the guardrails of the voting rights act and consistent with the constitution, that decision is left up to state legislators closer to the people and accountable to the voters. that's just a fundamental philosophical difference we have here on the senate floor. we say it play out on a lot of issues and now on this one. i'm very proud that my state of ohio and our bipartisan election officials in every county do in our elections. in the last election, we had a record 5.97 million ohioans cast a vote, more voters than ever. it represented 74% of eligible voters in our state. the second highest percentage in the history of ohio. despite the challenges of running the highest turnout flecks in -- turnout plex in our
state's history, it was regarded as the most secure and most successful ohio election ever. now is not the time to take the responsibility away from ohio state and local officials. article 1, section 4, of the saw clearly assigns that authority over elections to the state. alexander hamilton acknowledged that only in extraordinary circumstances should the federal government become involved in election law, explaining that allowing the federal government to run elections would have been a, quote, premeditated engine for the disruption of state governments, end quote. we are not in extraordinary circumstances right now. in general, it's become easier and easier to vote in america, and that's a good thing. and it's become easier to vote in america than many other democracies around the world, and that's good, too. easy to vote, hard to cheat. despite all the fiery speeches
on the floor stating the contrary over the past week, according to a recent survey from morning consult, only 33% of american adults think it's toot hard for eligible -- it's too hard for eligible voters to vote. a largerrer share, 44%, think current rules aren't strict enough. having heard the debate, this is what voters think. not only are democrats attempting to federal takeover of our elections system, but because they have chosen to change the constitutionally based election system in a purely partisan way, they don't have the 60 votes necessary to get something passed here in the united states senate. that's why instead of reaching out to find a bipartisan way forward, they are proposing to fundamentally change the long-standing rules of the senate. specifically, they are proposing to do away with what's called the legislative filibuster in order to advance their federal
election takeover bills by a simple majority instead of the normal 60 votes. this 60-vote margin, the legislative filibuster, is the one tool left to encourage bipartisanship, not just here in the senate but in our system, in the house, at the white house. yes, it provides important minority rights in the senate that protect the country from legislation that is too far out of the mainstream, and it helps pass good legislation like medicare or social security with big votes, big margins. it means those programs can be sustained and relied upon. that's good for our country. most importantly to me, the legislative filibuster is the one thing that encourages us to work in a bipartisan way. the successful passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law last year is a good example. i was in the middle of those negotiations. we knew we had to achieve 60
votes in a 50-50 senate. that meant we had to find common ground. we had to make concessions on both sides in order to get to 60 votes. as a result, we got well over 60, into the 70's, and a good piece of legislation that he was able to pass the house and be signed into law. it is now in place as reliable, sustainable legislation. did i agree with everything in it? no, nor did anybody else. but to get to those 60 votes, we all had to make certain concessions. although it is a senate rule, the legislative filibuster also requires members of the house of representatives to come up with more bipartisan solutions because they know their legislation has to pass the senate if they want it to become law, just as though i have been a committed bipartisan legislator in the senate for the past years, the same was flew the house did -- was true in the house for 12 years where i
regularly used fact that we needed 60 votes in the senate to force colleagues to come together and find way to pass legislation in a bipartisan manner. when i was in the executive branch in two cabinet-level jocks in the bush 43 administration as director of the office of legislative affairs for bush 41, that 60-vote necessity in the senate calmed the passions within the administration and forced us to find common ground to work in a more bipartisan manner resulting in more effective results that last the test of time. i know the benefits to our country of requiring more than a bare senate majority that shifts back-and-forth because i've lived it -- in it the house, in the senate, and in the white house. it is not just me or other republicans now saying that the legislative filibuster is good for our federal system. less than five years ago, 32 senate democrats, including
then-senator and now vice president kamala harris, joined with me and other republicans in signing an open letter insisting the legislative filibuster should not change. this was at a time when there was a democrat in the white house but republicans controlled the senate. it appears that those 32 democrats were happy to defend the filibuster as good for the country when they were in the minority but not now when the country is even further divided and they have a majority. all but a couple of those members have shifted their views. i would encourage my democratic colleagues to reread their own letter which makes such a compelling case that this is about the country, not about one political party or another. back in 2005 when senator schumer called abolishing the filibuster, and i quote, a temper tantrum but those on the hard, hard right, and i quote, want their way every single time, end quote, that was in
2005. now he is majority leader, and he has changed his tune. this seems short had sighted to me since the history of the national is to change the majority regularly. we don't know who's going to be in the majority in the next senate. could the senate rules be improved to allow more debate and more progress on legislation? absolutely. there's bipartisan interest in this, and we should turn it into something constructive. after this political exercise we're going through right now, we should turn to the issue of reforming the rules around here. let's have each leader choose a few interested members. let's hammer out a bipartisan proposal that allows more amendments and makes it easier to get legislation passed. it's not that hard. but eliminating the one tool that forces us to come together makes it harder to address those many challenges we face.
it makes it harder to pass legislation broadly supported and sustainable to actually help the people we represent. that's what we were elected to do. that's our job. not inflame the passions of our most committed and hard-line supporters but achieve results, and as i said at the outset, between inflation, covid, our southern border, we've got plenty to do. i urge my colleagues to step back from the brink, before destroying what has made the united states senate the most successful democracy. i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support sensible rules changes and recommit to use the 60-vote margin responsibly to generate consensus and find that illusive common ground that will best serve those we represent. and that will keep our great republic the envy of the world.
i yield back my time. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 6:15 p.m. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. now, mr. president, this is on defending democracy. the eyes of the nation will be watching what happens this week in the united states senate. just a few days removed from what would have been dr. martin luther king jr.