Top Democrats and Martin Luther King’s eldest son marked the national holiday that would have celebrated his father’s 93rd birthday by railing against the de facto requirement of a Senate supermajority.
They called out two Democrats for enabling Republican attacks on suffrage by refusing to change Senate rules so Democrats could enact suffrage legislation.
Speaking at Union Station in Washington, civil rights activist Martin Luther King III warned that American democracy “is on the brink of serious trouble” as long as Democratic-backed suffrage legislation remains mired in the upper room.
The Senate is due to return to Washington on Tuesday and start the debate on the freedom to vote: John R Lewis Act, which would reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act and strengthen access to the ballot by promoting mail-in voting and periods of early voting, and would preempt laws passed by GOP state legislatures to restrict voting in response to former President Donald Trump’s ‘big lie’ that the 2020 election was fraudulently stolen from him in cities in largely non-white.
Mr King warned that such laws “are passed with knife-edge precision” and are intended to “exclude black and brown voters from the process” in a way once prohibited by the Voting Rights Act 1965 for which his father pressured, and he reprimanded the senators. to “let them off the hook” using the modern incarnation of upper house filibuster rules.
The popular image of the filibuster – immortalized in Frank Capra’s classic film Mr. Smith goes to Washington – is of a senator who must speak and speak continuously to block action on a bill. This was the technique used by segregationist senators for decades to prevent the passage of civil rights and voting rights legislation, but a pair of rule changes in 1970 and 1975 were intended to allow the Senate to continue to operate while a bill was stalled. legislation by simply sending an e-mail.
Of the 50 Democratic members of the Senate, the vast majority expressed support for changing the rules once again, either to create an exception for civil rights and voting rights laws or to force a return to the old-fashioned filibuster because it would place the onus on Republicans to block bills rather than forcing Democrats to withdraw GOP votes to stop them.
But two Democrats — Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and Arizona’s Joe Manchin — flatly refused to support any changes that would weaken the de facto supermajority requirement.
Recalling how the filibuster was at the heart of what has been a century-long campaign to stop black Americans from voting, Mr King said there was no difference between Ms Sinema’s refusal and of Mr. Manchin to support his elimination and the GOP senators who use him to block any attempt. to roll back voting restrictions on non-white Americans.
“Each of them took an immoral stance against voting rights… last month they both backed a filibuster exception to raise the debt ceiling, but they draw the line to protect rights millions of voters? History will not remember them kindly,” he said, comparing them unfavorably to the “white moderates” whom his father called “the biggest stumbling block” to civil rights in his country. Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
“He was surrounded by people who told him to wait for a more convenient time and to use more pleasant methods,” he said. “Fifty-nine years later, it’s the same old song and dance of Senators Manchin and Sinema.”
Shortly after, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the same podium to call for an end to the filibuster and urged senators to ‘weigh the actions’ when the Senate votes on amendments this week. proposed in the rules.
“Nothing less is at stake than our democracy,” she said.
“It’s about suppressing the vote. It’s about canceling the election, it’s just about doing so many things to be barriers to participation,” she said of the GOP push to restrict voting at the behest of Mr Trump.
“If you really really want to honor Dr. King, don’t dishonor him by using a congressional custom as an excuse to protect our democracy,” she said.
Ms Pelosi’s call to honor the late Dr King by passing voting rights legislation was also echoed by Joyce Beatty, Representative from Ohio and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Democrats “must chart the line in the sand of justice for any member who does not stand with us to vote”. rights”.
“We will not abandon our efforts to enshrine suffrage legislation in law, nor will we allow a filibuster to obstruct our democracy and our voting rights,” she said. said, calling out senators who blocked the Democratic-backed voting bill and opposed the rule. changes “obstructionist to America’s promise of freedom and justice”.
“We have to oppose them,” she said.
The Independent Gt