Congressional Dems urge movement on voting rights legislation. ‘Time is running out,’ Warnock sa
Ahead of the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Democrats cited a flurry of restrictive voting measures passed in the wake of the 2020 election as evidence for immediate congressional reform.
Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock blasted state GOP lawmakers for additional voting changes proposed ahead of Georgia’s legislative session this year, including a bill that would eliminate ballot drop boxes altogether.
“Think about that in the middle of a pandemic, with the omicron variant — and we don't know what the days ahead will bring — some think that their duty is to get rid of drop boxes,” he said Tuesday. “It is very clear what the Republican Party is up to. They are trying to make it harder for some people to vote.”
Pastor of the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.’s pulpit, Warnock lamented at Republicans who may use the upcoming MLK holiday to talk about “bipartisanship” after blocking movement of voting rights legislation.
“You cannot remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time,” Warnock said. “The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, The Freedom to Vote Act, is the legacy of Dr. King. And if you would give lip service to his name, you need to find yourself on the right side of history — pushing to get these bills done.”
Georgia voters turned out in droves to elect Warnock and his counterpart U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff during narrow runoffs one year ago. Their victories resulted in control of the Senate — where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote — and unified control over both Congress and the White House.
Congressional Democrats pledged Tuesday they would use that power to find a way to push past their GOP colleagues who have blocked movement on voting rights legislation in the Senate. President Joe Biden has said voting rights is a top priority and has vowed to fight for its passage.
If the Senate does not debate voting rights in coming days, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that Democrats will look toward chamber rule changes to bypass lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.
But it is unclear exactly what rule changes they’ll pursue.
Last year, Georgia legislators along party lines passed a sweeping elections bill, “The Election Integrity Act of 2021,” that made numerous changes to the state’s election system after Georgia voted for a Democratic president for the first time since 1992 and for two Democratic U.S. senators, including Warnock, that tipped the balance of power in Washington.
Although Georgia’s legislative leadership has warned members against rehashing the 2020 election during the upcoming session, GOP lawmakers seeking higher office have already proposed additional changes — promising another heated debate over election laws.
The restrictive measures passed by Georgia and other states have fueled a push by federal Democrats for extensive voting protections against state changes — a push that has stalled for months in the Senate.
Warnock, who is among those leading the effort, has grown increasingly frustrated by Republicans blocking debate on the bill by use of the filibuster.
“Our democracy is imperiled and time is running out,” he said. “This is a moral moment. And if we fail to protect the voices and the votes of the American people, then we have fallen way short of our responsibility as members of this body.”
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