x
Breaking News
More () »

'Find yourself on the right side of history' | Warnock makes impassioned plea for voting bills

The senator is pushing for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and Freedom to Vote Act.

ATLANTA — Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock made an impassioned plea on Tuesday as he tries to revive the prospects of two voting rights bills that have stalled out in the U.S. Senate.

Speaking during a media availability session in Washington, Sen. Warnock urged his Senate colleagues to "find yourself on the right side of history, pushing to get these bills done."

Warnock is pushing for the Senate to take up the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which are currently blocked being blocked by Republicans.

RELATED: What is the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act?

"I take great umbrage when members of this body would use old, trite states' rights arguments - the same kind of states' rights arguments that were used against Dr. King back then - to push against reasonable access to the ballot right now," Warnock said in his comments. "Many of these same politicians will stand up in just a few days and they will give lip service to Martin Luther King, Jr. (on the MLK holiday). Well you cannot remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time."

The senator quoted Dr. King, saying his "words are as true now as they were back then: 'Justice delayed is justice denied.'"

There appears to be majority support for both bills in the Democrat-held Senate, but not the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.

Activists have called on Democrats, who own a 51-49 majority in the upper chamber of Congress, to change the Senate's filibuster rule. Doing so formally would also require a 60-vote two-thirds majority, but activists are pressing for Democrats to use the so-called "nuclear option" to do so - described by Democracy Docket as a "procedural loophole that allows a new interpretation of Senate rules to become precedent."

Democrats in the Senate previously used the "nuclear option" in 2013 to eliminate the filibuster against presidential nominations.

RELATED: Dr. Bernice King tries to 'clear up confusion' on whether family will celebrate MLK Day next year

In a statement, Republican National Committee Spokesperson Garrison Douglas framed the call to get rid of the filibuster as a "radical proposal" and that "Georgians want a senator who fights for them, not a senator that fights for their own self-interest."

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore federal oversight over state voting law changes that were removed by the Supreme Court nearly a decade ago.

That oversight was provided for in the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 of jurisdictions - many of them Southern states - who had systematically tried to deny Black people the ability to exercise their right to vote.

In 2013, however, the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder nullified the formula used in the original Voting Rights Act to determine which jurisdictions would be subject to the oversight. The Court in that case basically ruled the formula had become outdated and was thus unconstitutional.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore that oversight by applying a blanket formula to all states. Sen. Leahy's fact sheet says it "creates a new coverage formula that applies to all states and hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years."

The Freedom to Vote Act, meanwhile, would institute federal standards aimed at reversing some regulations on voting such as those passed in Georgia. The bill would make Election Day a public holiday, require early voting in all 50 states and standardize how mail-in voting is done.

"Our democracy is in peril and time is running out," Warnock said Tuesday. "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 responsibilities as members of this body."