Senate

Family of John Lewis joins rally pressing Biden to help end Senate filibuster

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Family members of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) joined progressive activists on Thursday at a rally outside the White House to call on President Biden to urge the Senate to nix the legislative filibuster.

Led by the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, the coalition of activists were outside of the White House to deliver a petition to the Biden administration that calls on the president to act on the filibuster, a move that would pave the way for Senate passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“My late brother used to tell me there are times in our lives when our conscience is going to be put on display,” Henry Lewis, the civil rights icon’s youngest brother, said at a press conference. “I think with these two bills, each senator is going to have to let their conscience be their guide.”

Biden has been vocal in his support of both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, two measures that have met stiff GOP opposition in the Senate.

In a speech in Philadelphia last month, Biden described the onslaught of restrictive voting laws in GOP-controlled state Houses as “21st century Jim Crow,” and vowed to “challenge it vigorously.”

Biden — who served in the Senate for more than three decades — has balked at supporting filibuster reform. The 60-vote threshold for advancing most legislation has prevented much of the Democrats’ agenda from reaching Biden’s desk.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) joined activists at Thursday’s rally and said Biden needs to persuade fellow Democrats in the Senate to change the filibuster rule.

“We need the president to use his full leverage as president. I don’t underestimate that he alone cannot get rid of the filibuster, but as a member of Congress, I realize that nobody can pass the buck,” Norton said. “We need all in.”

Hundreds of controversial voting laws have been introduced across the country since the beginning of the year; according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 30 have been signed into laws in 18 different states.

Democrats have attributed the wave of bills to the fallout surrounding November’s presidential election. Former President Trump and his allies, including many GOP lawmakers, have falsely claimed that the election was stolen through rampant voter fraud.

As it stands, the Democrats’ pair of voting rights bills would effectively nullify many of the state laws that have recently passed. Neither piece of legislation has anywhere close to the bipartisan support needed to pass, though there is some hope that consensus can be found on the proposal that bears the name of the late Georgia congressman and voting rights champion John Lewis.

House Democrats hope to introduce that measure within the coming weeks.

The proposal would seek to update the formula that formerly determined the federal pre-clearance provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a provision that was ruled outdated and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has floated creating an exception to the filibuster when it comes to voting rights, allowing the two Democrat-backed measures to pass through the upper chamber on merely a simple majority vote.

Some exceptions for the filibuster already exist, such as budget reconciliation and presidential appointee confirmations.

Because of Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote, Senate Democrats would be close to eliminating the filibuster, though moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are firmly against the idea, while others are somewhat reticent.

Tags Donald Trump Eleanor Holmes Norton Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Kyrsten Sinema
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