Black caucus chair arrested at Capitol during voting rights protest

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) led a group of pro-voting rights protesters into the Hart Senate Office Building Thursday afternoon, resulting in her being taken into custody.

“We will not be turned around. We will keep walking. We will fight for freedom. We will fight for our right to vote!” Beatty tweeted at 3:42 p.m., with a photo of her marching arm-in-arm with several protesters. 

The congresswoman and protesters can be heard shouting “end the filibuster” in video taken by reporters on the scene.

Three minutes later, a picture of Beatty being handcuffed by Capitol Police was tweeted from her account.

“Let the people vote. Fight for justice,” the second tweet reads. 

Beatty’s office confirmed to The Hill that she had been taken into custody. 

In a statement, Capitol Police said that “two males and seven females” were arrested for “illegal demonstration activity” after being asked three times to disperse.

Getting voting rights legislation and other key Democratic agenda priorities past the Senate’s filibuster, which requires 60 “yes” votes for debate on a bill to end, has proven to be a herculean task this session of Congress, creating urgency among Democrats and prompting increasingly loud calls for the procedural rule to be axed.

It’s a perfect storm of distress for Democrats, as a wave of restrictive voting laws have been introduced and passed in GOP-controlled state legislatures around the country since the start of the year.

Additionally, there is concern that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold a pair of strict Arizona voting laws crippled the already weakened Voting Rights Act.

It is believed that the Democrats’ two voting rights bills — the For the People Act and the Johnson Lewis Voting Rights Advancement — would stem the flow of the new voting restrictions, but as it stands, neither have a clear path to President Biden’s desk.

Republicans vehemently oppose the For the People Act, known as H.R. 1, often describing the proposal as a blatant Democratic power grab. The bill passed the House with no GOP support and isn’t expected to garner any in the Senate.

The lengthy bill would mandate a federal threshold for certain voting rights, such as universal mail-in voting, early voting and same-day voter registration. It also addresses gerrymandering and campaign finance reform.

Some moderate Republicans have signaled vague support for the bill named after the late Georgia congressman and voting rights champion John Lewis (D), but it’s doubtful that it will receive the 10 Republican votes it needs to clear the filibuster.

Democrats have Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the Senate and can theoretically reform or get rid of the filibuster, but they need complete support from the entire caucus. 

Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) are both firmly against getting rid of the filibuster, even for voting rights. 

Over the weekend, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) proposed that an exception to the filibuster be allowed that would allow bills related to voting rights the ability to bypass the procedural rule by simple majority.

A maneuver of that kind isn’t unprecedented; confirmation votes can pass by simple majority as well as the process of budget reconciliation that Democrats used to get Biden’s America Rescue Plan passed.

A few House Democrats have signaled an openness to supporting Clyburn’s suggestion.  

“For voting rights, I’d be willing to support that because I’m willing to use every tool in the toolkit,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), the CBC’s second vice-chair, told The Hill Wednesday, in reference to Clyburn’s idea. 

“This is beyond just one of the things we need to work on, it is essential for us in government to make sure that we are protecting the right to vote, it’s our democracy.”

Updated 5:20 p.m.

Tags Brenda Lawrence Capitol Police Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Joyce Beatty Kyrsten Sinema USPC voting rights

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