Obama says Senate will vote again on voting rights
Former President Obama said Monday he believes the Senate will hold a new vote on the Democratic voting rights bill that Republicans in the upper chamber blocked last week.
Speaking to supporters in his first fundraising call since the 2020 elections, Obama teamed up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric Holder to call for support for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), which organized the call.
“I have every confidence that Nancy working in conjunction with [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and others, including people like [Sen.] Joe Manchin, are going to figure out a way in which there’s an up and down vote on the For the People Act,” said Obama.
The voting rights bill, which Democrats unanimously supported and Republicans unanimously opposed, failed in a 50-50 procedural vote in the Senate last week, falling well short of the 60-vote majority needed to overcome the Senate filibuster.
Another Democratic-led voting rights bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, is still alive in Congress and has better chances at achieving bipartisan support.
But Congress’s attention has mostly diverted to infrastructure and jobs over the past week, in the wake of a bipartisan agreement endorsed by Biden.
Still, Obama sought to bring attention back to voting rights, painting a stark picture of American democracy absent federal legislation on the matter in the face of “major strategies to reduce the impact of universal suffrage.”
“If we don’t stop these kinds of efforts now, [what] we are going to see is more and more contested elections — contested not in the sense of healthy competition but contested in terms of who wins, who loses,” said Obama.
“We are going to see a further delegitimizing of our democracy. And not only are we going to see more unfairness in terms of results and who is represented and who isn’t, but we are going to see a breakdown of the basic agreement that has held this magnificent democratic experiment together,” he added.
Obama said action on voting rights is even more important following the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, where former President Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud fueled anger among his supporters, leading to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“What we saw was my successor, the former president, violate that core tenet that we count the votes and then declare a winner and fabricate and make up a whole bunch of hooey,” said Obama.
Despite the packed congressional schedule and national focus on economic legislation, Pelosi and Holder joined Obama in calling for a redo of the voting rights vote in the Senate.
Pelosi attributed Republican opposition to the bill on its campaign finance reform proposals to change “the role of big dark special interest money in politics.”
“For this and other reasons we’re meeting some resistance in the Senate, but I’m not giving up on that,” said Pelosi.
And Pelosi credited Holder, who chairs the NDRC, with whipping up support for the bill’s passage in the House in March.
Holder minimized the importance of the bill’s Senate defeat, saying he is confident the bill will pass Congress.
“Last week’s vote I think proves that Democrats, at least, we are united in pursuing a bill to protect the right to vote in America. This is a preliminary step but we saw united Democratic support there and that is obviously just the beginning of a battle in the Senate,” said Holder.
“We’re committed, no matter what it takes, to helping the For the People Act reach President Biden’s desk so that he can sign it into law,” added Holder.