tv U.S. Senate Senate Majority Leader Schumer on Voting Rights Bill CSPAN January 18, 2022 5:30pm-6:11pm EST
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.'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. time by republicans. we brought commonim sense proposals for times 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 debate on voting rights so today we are changing this by using a message from the house and that's just a step. but it's 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.e as we debate these measures the senate will confront political questions. the members of this chamber do whatt is necessary to pass these bills and bring us closer to the president's desk? today we have just taken the first step that will put everyone, everyone on the record. much has been said over the past few days about the prospect of passing voting rights legislation in this chamber. senate democrats have no illusions that we faced difficult odds especially when virtually every senate republican, every senate republican is staunchly against legislation protecting the right to vote. i want to be clear, when this chamber confronts a question this important, one so vital to our ideals, so vital to the
future of our democracy you don't slide it off the table and say nevermind. win, lose or draw, members of the chamber were elected to debate and devote especially on an issue is vital to the beating heart of our democracy such 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 with the public to see what each of us in this chamber stands. the public deserves to see it and that's exact he precisely what the senate is going to do this week. and make no mistake about it, using dr. king is 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 is in this chamber we have made progress, inexorable progress in expanding that franchise. history does not regard those restrictions as worthy. 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 a biography of ulysses s. grant by ron chernow. the number one thing in southern segregationist wanted take away from the newly freed was the right to vote. segregationist back then knew that recently freed didn't have the right to vote in the south they have no power at all. no power over laws or resources for the future of the country and that was the number one thing segregationist wanted to prevent the right of the newly freed slaves to vote for dr. king made a direct appeal to congress to vote on rights. give us the ballot he said in 1957 we will no longer have to worry the federal government will keep her basic rights. give us the ballot in all other rights will follow.
with the ballot he argued voters could end the worst of the racial segregation. they could elect men and women to government and subdue the dangers of the mob and keep democracy alive. the ballot has to come first. the ballot has 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 b being repressed. our democracy is not safe, it is under attack. a year ago a violent mob incited by the president and his big lie attack this very building in order to reverse the results of a free and fair election rate last week for the first time ths department of justice announced charges against a number of the rioters there that were here that day. a year9 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 a justification. those states together are home to 55 million americans and new laws are certainly coming once the state legislature returns to session this year and the kind of violence come the threat to 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-in ballot applications thanks to the near republican voter suppression law and this past saturday donald trump once again
repeated the same conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that paved the way for voter suppression at the state level. so unfortunately mr. president the dangers that face our democracy are alive and well in the laws that suppress the vote at the state level are being enacted on a partisan basis. we have seen. the progression in terms of voting rights and equality and fairness for people of color. we have seen regression occurred and it's a period of regression with the legislatures are doing. so the senate must act. we must step down 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 in the john lewis voting rights act and if republicans choose to
continue to filibuster of voting rights legislation we must consider and vote on the rules that are appropriate and necessary to restore the senate and make voting legislation possible. i have recounted already these laws are urgently needed. we must not and 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 commonsense standards for all americans for access to the ballot as well as restore provisions that were passed by this chamber for decades on a bipartisan basis. they will establish clear and consistent standards for early voting across the country and make it easier for voters to access an absentee ballot and protect election workers from intimidation which we are seeing
so much now of. they would end the toxic of partisan gerrymandering and they would take new steps to fight the power of broad money corroding our elections. the democrats have repeatedly tried every 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 will remind the american people how dramatically the republican party has regressed. the republican party used to be one that supported voting rights. president reagan george w. bush and george w. bush worked to remote -- unfortunately this is donald trump's republican party and it's the one trying to take away the vote from younger black
and elderly minority and low-income voters and yet every time we try to engage or senate republican colleagues they resist so we have no choice. we are moving ahead on our own. once again no one denies the past has been the struggle. republicans have been clear clear they will entertain no bipartisan compromise on voting rights. long odds are no excuse forbu ts chamber to avoid this important issue. again members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote. we are going to vote. o we are all going to go on the record and republicans will have to choose which side t they stad on rejecting democracy are offering their implicit endorsement of donald trump's big lie. for months senate republicans have come up with excuses and subterfuges to avoid doing what they know is the right thing just like so many others have
come up with similar lame excuses and substitutions in t e past as history shows. doing the right thing will eventually prevail. justice will flow like mighty water. the direction of voting rights in america is enough to shake and the fate of the most optimistic champion of democracy. sometimes it seems like when we step forward the country takes two steps. it's not unusual in american history. h the story of our country has been a long arduous fight and expanding the promise of freedom to all americans and we find ourselves in such aay struggle today. dr. king had simple and powerful advice during moments like this. keep fighting, the way to
justices often painful and there are setbacks that we must keep moving. we must keep moving he said against every obstacle in hilltop and not in the -- let nothing slow you down and even after you cross the red sea only to find yourself on the desert just keep moving forward throug, the wilderness. 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'll keep fighting with same spirit that protected art democracy in this day and age and if we do that i have faith that one day the history books will look back on this generation of americans and preclude they weren't great people too.
>> late last week our democratic colleagues briefly's their? to destroy the senate 50 vote threshold just long enough to use a 60 vote threshold themselves to block a bill. every republican supported sanctioning the nord stream ii pipeline that would give fresh even more leverage to bully europe. most of her democratic colleagues met with a furious lobbying of the biden administration to protect the pipeline. there were 55 votes to pass a bill that her friends like ukrainian presents a landscape desperately wanted passed the democrats thought this by denying 60. many of the same colleagues have spent weeks literally thundering to the senate 60 vote threshold.
it's an offensive tool of obstruction. the jim crow relic declaring a simple majorities should always get their way. late last week they will did the themselves. a useful reminder of just how fake, fake the hysteria has been. we are the new washington democrats don't have any opposition to o the senate rule. democrats previously filibustered the cares act in march of 2020 while insisting on changes. democrats filibustered in senator tim scott's reform bill. you only have to go back in the years to read vigorous defense of the filibuster from our democratic colleagues and their allies.ra senator durbin put it this way, we need to protect the right of the senate to 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. the democratic leader himself set in 2017 we need to find a way to build a firewall around the legislative double buster. build a firewall around the legislative will buster. and in a letter that same year by 32 senate democrats are colleagues demanded, demanded that the 60 vote threshold stay. until the last couple of your senators on both sides say the senate is not here to rubberstamp massive changes by senate majority. this visitation exists to do exactly the opposite. to make sure major laws have major staying power and the starkly democratic alliesde
outside this chamber have recognized this as well. so let's go back 15 years ago when republicans controlled the senate in a left-wing organization called the leadership conference on civil and human rights and published a lengthy statement defending, defending the filibuster including in listen to this, including its relationship to civil rights. this is what they had to say whenre republicans were the majority 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 you to oppose, opposed any effort to eliminate-o 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. and they went on. elimination of the rights of the minority as embodied by the erfilibuster is contrary to the senate as a body of people designed to protect against the tyranny of the majority. their statement continues, the civil rights community has recognized and accepted the value of the filibuster even when a frustrated civil rights goals. during the 1950s and the 1960s civil rights bills were filibuster for the civil rights act of 1964 was the longest filibuster in history and the senate voted 71-29 to end debate and finally passed the bill. this legislation was enacted to
cousin of long hard work and support across partisan ideological lines. we work to bring americans together and not to push them farther apart. they conclude, we never demand the end of the system of checks and balances. in the end we won the battle by taking votes and not by breaking the rules. these mr. president were left-wing activist 20 years ago. democrats want the american people to believe the filibuster was not an old jim crow relic of 2005. it was not even a jim crow relic in 2020. miraculously it became a jim
crow relic in 2021. briefly it stopped being a jim crow relic last thursday. now it's back to being a jim crow relic this week. now to be clear the partisan election takeover bill the democrats want to ram through this week are not in any way suggested that the civil rights legislation from the mid-20th century. it has been and it is today and will remain illegal to discriminate against voters anywhere in america because of their race period. that is the law. targeting americans on line and sending government took political campaigns is not about civil rights. weakening wildly popular voter i.d.s laws and make it harder
to -- is not about making voting easier to about making cheating easier. changing laws that were attorney general can rewrite the laws without even having to win in court is not about promoting justice, it's about short-circuiting-c justice. this is about one party wanting the power to unilaterally rewrite the rule book of american elections. interestingly the biden administration have gone out of their way lately to highlight my strong record on real civil rights and real voting rights. the secretary explained that i have voted with a strong record of supporting fighting -- voting rights of and that's exactly why i have no patience, none for the unrelated murders and takeover
that some democrats ascribe to in thatne manner. the democratic leader argues that this proposed elections takeover in his efforts to break the senate or last resorts because of new state laws that passed in 2021. he said it's that 2020 saw a record turnout in listen to this 94% said voting was easy because this debate is exclusively about what happened in 2021. democrats have been pushing the same policy charges in the same little rhetoric since 2019. it happened before the 2020 election with democrats now call a success. the democratic leader game interview claiming the evil republicans are trying to attack voting and disenfranchise
people. of course when democrats win on to the white house the 2020 election went from presumptively illegitimate to exemplary and unquestionably overnight. around the same time in 2019 senator schumer began floating a nuclear attack on senate rules. completely untetheredct from the elections issue. he thought breaking the rules would make for a livelier event as majority leader. democrats wanted the power to rewrite the rules of the political stage in election laws long long before it was justified in the democratic leader's effort to break the senate the latest pretext. we have strong this agreement about the substance of these bills that more broadly we see increasing trust in our democracy on both political
sides. we have this sitting president of united states shouting that the united states senators on the side ofe bowl connor -- bowl connor and refusing to -- the senate. with the senate. to make these worse or to help break it? that the force broad coalitions? this hysteria does not prove the senate is -- approved the senate is as necessary as ever. republicans have reported -- supportive as we've been in the minority when the rules protect them when they've been in the majority in last week some of her colleagues across the aisle
reconfirmed they have the principles to keep their word and to protect the institution as well. too many of our colleagues across the aisle they don't want to respond withes the rule breaking power grab. voting to break this institution will not be a free vote or an 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 her colleagues have the wisdom to stop you. it's amazing that her colleagues are this enthralled. we have inflation, a pandemic,
rampant violent crime, a border crisis and possibly a war on the european continent. senate democrats want to mark their own legacy with the procedural vote they know will fail. affection this desperate for ad moment its power is a faction that must be denied. >> madam president i care about the future this institution and right now i care more about our democracy better country has been the bedrock for democracies around the world and the gold standard by which other countries wishing to achieve transparency and validation of their government have asked us
to 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. weather was fdr and the new dealer ronald reagan declaring in america the people have spoken and countries 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 won their country by other means and they are less stable and less egalitarian. and yet if we think of the many 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 that people haven't spoken. donald trump is not just like the guy at a football game doesn't like the refs 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 the nfl are college football where the coach says i don't like the refs call? my team didn't lose the game and i'm going to spend the rest of my time marching around to every football game and every community thing saying my team didn't lose the game. thankof god professional coaches know better and they don't do this and get former president trump keeps saying i don't like the call of the election
officials, judges, federal courts nevermind 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 where some of the clear they really didn't lose. what if everybody went around saying i really didn't lose? what if our system of government would be affected by that? madam president it's getting to that level of absurdity. the republican nominee and that gubernatorial election lost by over 600,000 votes yet he claims voter fraud. he lost by 56-43 and even those who lost with such a huge margin he claimed to voter fraud. he sued the secretary of state who happen to be a republican in
king county superior court. he only brought the election after the court to his lawyer erwith meritless claims. do we really understand this danger, the danger of people in our country who -- to our economy and our way of life as these falsehoods continue? we are not here though because the former president cannot except in election law. the minute he stepped onto the national stage. we are 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 believe in free and fair elections. there are republicans in key election positions who have stood up to the illegal tactics of the president when he tried to change the outcome of the last election. what our country can't afford right now is a continuation of those allowed to erode the voting rights of our fellow americans. voting rights have been hard-fought and hard-won. i know the president -- first by women in 191920 and then later protecting minority groups in 1965 with the voting rights act
and the 1970 we updated making standards helping to regulate presidential elections and 75 we had to protect other minorities. both sides of the aisle agreed to this and the 1992 expanded bilingual education requirements that was a 75-20 vote and in 2006 the last time the voting rights were updated we werear ia 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. nothing wrong with the john lewis voting rights law. there is nothing wrong with the john lewis voting rights law
before us. it is a bill with bipartisan support that tries to maintain i think the federal minimumon assurance that states don't suppress the rights of our fellow americans. martin luther king was fighting the fight and he said one man, one vote. we knew that this was about making sure that everybody had a chance to vote. the john lewis act was a continuation of those rights and upgrading something that has been upgraded numerous times since 1965 and that is why my colleagues senator manchin and murkowski called for bipartisan reauthorization of the voting rights act. bipartisan calls for reauthorization last spring of
the voting rights act. he said quote in action is not an option end quote. he continues to say quote congress does 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 and that is why there are 150 who support the john lewis act companies like microsoft and google and intel and pepsi 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 ourac democracy. american history gives the right to vote to all citizens and black people in particular. we have had the march struggle and give their lives for more than a century to defend that right and we support efforts to ensure that our democracy and their futures more hopeful and more inclusive than in the past. there are others, best buy who say elections cannot be free or fair if every eligible voter is not given a full 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 it now because i will be on the floor later. i'm from o a vote by mail state and i'm proud of what our state has accomplished. i do not appreciate the misinformation of newt gingrich when he says quote the biggest way to expand voter fraud is to expand vote by mail. he is wrong. if i could flash a red line in a red circle through this i would do so right now. i will spend many minutes later on the floor talking about why both by mail is part of the solution not the threat. companies know that when it comes to our economy were greatly advantaged by being in a democracy. it will cost us -- in a place to
do business. why now do people refuse to engage on the john lewis voting rights act? i might be one of those people who would say don't change the filibuster rule, it can wait. wait for what? what are we waiting for? our capitol was attacked. we were attacked. the people defending usil were killed. for what? for what? a big lie, a big lie about our elections. i sat outside outside the
capitol and generous you can listen to the president of lies that l i knew weren't true. i knew what he said was incorrect about our voting laws because i know and understand them and i certainly no vote by mail. he said many lies about many court decisions have said are not true. the h point is donald trump and his followers keep following and tells the people the election was unfairly decided and now they are trying to pass state laws eroding our constitutional right to protect every american so that they can 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 the jolly roger flag over our democracy because they lost the election and some people don't want to ask. a 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 our elections and the best way to do that is not to suppress the vote. 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 creed we need to be protected.
we need to be defended and they need to be fought for and with all the challenges -- >> the voting rights bill debate and filibuster rules for democrats coming either caucus and we continue live at the briefing we are not all going to speak some of us are. for the first time this is the very first time today that congress has been debating a bill to protect voting rights on the senate floor. the freedom to vote act and the john lewis voting rights act and win, lose or draw members of this chamber were elected to