Business & Lobbying

Business executives urge Senate to bypass filibuster to pass voting rights

Pro-Democratic supporters are seen during a vigil to mark the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol and to support voting rights on Thursday, January 6, 2022.
Greg Nash

A group of three dozen business executives on Wednesday urged Senate leaders to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.

The Freedom to Vote Alliance, which includes Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, warned that U.S. democracy is under threat amid state-level GOP efforts to restrict voting rules and take control of election administration. 

“We cannot allow voter suppression efforts or a refusal to certify legitimate federal election results to spark potential economic instability, violence, or other calamities that scholars of business and democracy alike are warning of with increasing alarm,” the group wrote in a letter to President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The group of business leaders called on lawmakers to bypass the legislative filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act — a bill to expand early and mail voting, increase election security and crack down on partisan gerrymandering, among other measures. The group is also pushing for passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would require areas with a history of discrimination to obtain federal approval to change voting laws.

The letter comes as Biden pushes Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to drop their opposition to changing the legislative filibuster, which allows Republicans to block many bills in the 50-50 Senate. Biden said Tuesday that Democrats have “no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster” to overhaul voting laws.

Only a small number of business leaders have called for Democrats to ax the filibuster. And while many of the nation’s largest corporations have previously expressed support for legislation to expand voting rights, most have gone quiet amid Biden’s most recent effort. 

“A strong economy depends on a strong democracy,” Stacy Schusterman, chairman of Oklahoma-based firm Samson Energy and a member of the Freedom to Vote Alliance, said in a statement. “With the cornerstone of our democracy — the freedom to vote — under attack nationwide, corporate America has an obligation to speak up.”

Democrats are exploring options to change filibuster rules, including a carve-out that would exempt voting rights legislation from needing to get 60 votes, but they’ll need to win over the party’s two holdouts. Republicans have threatened to bring the Senate agenda to a crawl if Democrats weaken or eliminate the filibuster.  

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer ETSY Filibuster Freedom to Vote Act Google Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell Reddit voting rights
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