January 19, 2022


Thirteen days ago, we marked the one-year anniversary of the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol and on our democracy itself. While that assault did not succeed in stopping Congress from counting the electoral vote, our democracy is still under threat. In fact, the Big Lie has metastasized. Its poison is seeping across the country, fueling Republican-controlled state legislatures as they enact laws that erect new barriers to the ballot box designed to make it harder for primarily people of color, those with disabilities, and younger voters to cast their ballots. To meet this moment and to protect our democracy, we need to take action here and now. That’s what the Freedom to Vote Act does.

While all 50 members of the Democratic majority support this bill to protect our democracy, I’m disappointed that as of this moment, not one member of the Senate Republican Caucus plans to join us. Instead, Republican Senators are using the current version of the Senate filibuster rule – which allows 41 out of 100 Senators to stop the other 59 from voting on legislation – to block a vote on these vital measures. It wasn’t always this way. In the earliest days of the Senate, Senators were given the opportunity for prolonged debate to ensure that all opinions were heard, but the chamber always moved to a final majority vote. In fact, the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the Framers of our Constitution never intended for a minority of Senators to be able to thwart the will of the majority. The current version of the Senate filibuster rule is nothing more than a total invention of Senators that empowers individual Senators by disempowering the overwhelming majority of the American people.

Some proponents of the current filibuster rule claim that it promotes bipartisanship. I and many of my colleagues prefer to find common ground whenever we can to meet the challenges of the day. But let’s not kid ourselves about the ability of the 60-vote requirement to promote bipartisanship. The Senate we are living in today is the most polarized ever. In fact, the filibuster in its current form has become a partisan political weapon. Another argument often made in favor of preserving the current Senate rule asserts that if we eliminate the 60-vote threshold to pass policies that Republicans don’t like, Republicans would use a majority vote to pass policies that Democrats don’t like. That’s true, but that’s the nature of democracy. If the American people don’t like a law that we’ve passed, they get to go to the ballot box to render a decision. We should not be erecting artificial rules to protect ourselves from the majority views of the American people. In fact, it’s simply arrogant to say that “we Senators” – not “We the People” – are the guardians of our democracy and then invent a rule that blocks the will of the people.

I support the proposals put forward by many of my colleagues to take us back to the original design and intent of the first Senate and the Framers so every member gets a chance to make their point and convince their colleagues and constituents before going to a majority vote prescribed by our Founders and our nation’s founding documents. I will continue to urge my colleagues to help restore function to the Senate and to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect our democracy.