tv U.S. Senate Sens. Cardin Cotton King Merkley Kaine Bennet Hassan... CSPAN January 20, 2022 5:21am-6:13am EST
excesses of the executive branch and the resultant haste and tyranny of the majority. eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out. it wasn't meant to be easy. i cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to washington to unite our country, not to divide our country. we're called the united states. not the divided states. and putting politics and party aside is what we're supposed to do it's time we do the hard work to forge a difficult compromise that can stand the test of time. and that's why we're here. 233 years. think about it. wars, depressions, think of all the hardships this country has gone through, all the people that have suffered and fought for every right we have. we're not going backwards. with that being said we can do better than what we're doing today. we truly can. we must promise the americans for a brighter future. i think we can do that together. thank you, mr. make one comment. my colleagues on the other side
of the aisle have said that they welcome an opportunity to debate voting rights legislation and talk about ways that we can get this bill in a way that we can get bipartisan support. the majority leader several weeks ago offered a motion to proceed on voting rights, filed cloture so that we could get on the bill and have the type of debate that my colleagues now are telling us that they want to have, and not a single republican voted to proceed on voting rights legislation at that time. so i find it a little bit disheartening to hear this newfound desire to start taking up voting rights when we've been negotiating and talking and debating this issue for now this entire congress. we also have an historic opportunity to vote on voting rights if we take advantage of that opportunity.
i represent the state of maryland, and i know we talked about 19 states that are moving in the wrong direction on protecting voter rights. maryland is not one of those states. in fact, the maryland legislature has taken steps to make it easier for voters to be able to register and cast their votes. and the voting rights act was authored by my congressman, congressman john sarbanes. and i'm proud of the work that he has done because marylanders recognize that we administer elections locally, but we need national standards. and that's why this legislation is under consideration. mr. president, after the civil war and reconstruction, powerful officials sought to nullify the political outcome of the civil war. they passed laws and institution policies that enforced segregation. and we all know those laws -- the jim-crow laws, black code
that institutionalized segregation, aimed at disenfranchising minority voters, poll taxes and literacy tests and voter intimidation, rationalized by protecting our national security or voter integrity. thanks to courageous leaders, we were able to reverse those laws. by presidents such as harry truman in 1948 in integrating our military. by our courts in the landmark decision in 1954, brown v. board of education, marylanders are proud of thurgood marshall, a native son of maryland, the role that he played in arguing that case before the supreme court. and by our congress with historic action in 1964 to pass the civil rights act, in 1965 the voting rights act, 1968, the fair housing act. today we are now seeing a renewed effort for jim-crow type
laws aimed at disenfranchising targeting voters. my colleagues have talked about it and i'm not going to repeat it because time is running short. aimed at minorities to prevent them from being able to cast their votes. marginal groups are targeted because those who are enacting these laws think that it will help them politically. why now? the answer is pretty simple. the 2020 elections, an election where more people voted than ever before, judged to be the most secure election in american history. but because donald trump lost, for the first time in the history of this nation, we had the loser claim that the election was stolen in order to rationalize his loss. that big lie is what motivated
legislatures to pass laws to make it more difficult for vulnerable people to be able to vote, to effect election results, presenting a clear danger to our democracy itself on voter integrity and the confidence that voters, that our system is actually working. now is the time for the senate to show courage, to debate as we're doing today, and vote on two bills -- the freedom to vote act sets minimum federal standards with state administered election laws. we've gone through all the different provisions. i'm not going to go through them again, but p we need to have these national standards because of the actions in these 19 states and other reasons such as the dark money that my colleague from rhode island pointed out, or voter intimidation issues and restoring democracy. there are so many issues that are in that that are important to restore voting confidence. and we need to pass the john r.
lewis voting rights advancement act to restore the voting rights act because of the supreme court decision, and restore precertification. and has been pointed out by my colleagues, this historically has been supported by both democrats and republicans. i think one republican vote to proceed to this, for those who are saying they're willing to debate this issue. today senators will have the opportunity to vote to be on the right side of history. the senate filibuster prevented the passage of civil rights legislation to reverse the jim-crow laws until finally in 1964 the filibuster ended, and the senate voted. by invoke -- invoking cloture wn vote now to protect voting rights amendments. we can do it now by passing cloture and be on the right side of history. if cloture is denied, we'll have the opportunity to restore the senate to its best traditions, to debate and
vote, to require those who want to use rule 19 -- and rule 19 is our filibuster rule -- to actually be on the floor and debate. no more pocket filibusters. the senate rules changes that we've all been talking about -- i've been listening to my colleagues -- let me just talk a little bit about changing senate practice. let alone a constitutional issue such as voting rights should have priority over any of the procedural issues that we have here on the floor of the senate. and let alone restoring the senate to a working body should have priority over the interpretations of some of our rules. but let me talk about the rule itself. if you look at the 20th century, basically legislation was considered on the floor of the senate through comity and debate and compromise, and we were able to bring issues to the
floor for a vote. rarely, very rarely was a filibuster used. why? because you had it -- you had to come to the floor and talk. it was very time-consuming. it took a lot of time off the senate floor. it was inconvenient for the member to have to stand up here and talk. so we were able to come together. it wasn't through a cloture vote that it ended. it ended because people didn't want to go through the inconvenience of talking, or we were able to resolve it. so we're talking about restoring the senate to its best traditions. many have talked about we're going to change the filibuster rule. no, we're not suggesting changing the filibuster rule. the filibuster rule is come on the floor and speak. it's the cloture that's the 60 votes. you don't need cloture if you run the clock on filibuster. what we need to do is prevent dilatory actions, and that's
why the leader's point is going to be important. but we're trying to restore the senate to a body that can work together by requiring the members to come to the floor and speak and vote by how the framers of the senate rules intended at the end of the day. and to my friend from west virginia, this gives us the chance to start to work together. i couldn't agree with you more. we do need to come together in a bipartisan way. let our committees work. we need to look at senate rules. but we first need to move on action. and this is a fundamental bill that we need to move forward. the leader is framing this in a very narrow way so we can get this bill moving, use this as an example, work together democrats and republicans, so the senate can restore its practices, so we all can be proud members of a body that debates and votes. that's what we can do, respecting each member's rights
and respecting minority rights. i urge my colleagues to support cloture. and if cloture fails, to support the leader's point, and be on the right side of history. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the president pro tempore: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: inflation is at its highest level in 40 years, drug overdose deaths at record levels, the murder rate at the highest since the 1990's. and the president of the united states just green lighted vladimir putin to invade and china is continuing aggression. so what have the democratic floor leader and senate democrats spent the last two months doing? trying to overturn 200 years of senate rules and customs so that they can do things like ban voter i.d. nationwide and use your tax dollars to support political campaigns. they tell us that americans are
living under jim crow 2.0, and they cite the recent georgia election law as proof. let's investigate this so-called vote suppression law. under the new law, the state of georgia will have 17 days of early voting. if this is jim crow 2.0, then i have bad news, because the democratic leader's home state of new york and the president's home state of delaware were engaged in what i guess you call jim crow 3.0 last year because new york had nine days of early voting and delaware had no days, zero days of early voting. next i've heard complaints that georgia has reduced the number of ballot drop boxes in the state, even though they now require every county to have a drop box, as was not the case as recently as 2018. and that georgia has added new security measures to prevent fraud. once again, i hate to break the
news that the democratic floor leader's home state of new york had zero ballot drop boxes, and the president's home state of delaware allowed for just five last year. and of course one of the democrats' favorite claims is that all those terrible republicans down in georgia have stopped campaign and political workers from giving food and drimptions -- drinks to people waiting in line at the polls. where could georgia have gotten such an idea? as it turns out the democratic leader's home state of new york also has a nearly identical law banning such electioneering near polling places. the democrats also say that voter i.d. is a kind of new jim crow. that might surprise the 69% of black americans who support voter i.d. now, what are they up to?
this is an especially good question given the letter that 28 democrats still in the senate signed on april 7, 2017. to the leadership around here, urging them to oppose any effort, any effort to stop the senate's tradition and custom of extended debate. some of those senators are on the floor with us at this moment. i see the junior senator fromle illinois -- from illinois and the junior senator from hawaii and the junior senator from maine. the presiding officer, for that matter. many more were down here earlier. and, mr. president, i would invite, through the chair, any of those senators, if they would like to engage in a colloquy why
they have changed their position since they signed that letter on april 7, 2017. i guess i don't have any takers. i will point out -- a senator: will the senator yield? mr. cotton: i will certainly yield. the presiding officer: the senator from maine. mr. king: i signed that letter. let's talk about the letter itself. we are united in the ability to preserve the ability for members to engage in extended debate when the bills are on the senate floor. i agree with that. the bill on the floor today will allow extended debate. there are two points that have caused me to modify the position that i took on this letter. one is the nature of the issue that's before the body. if we were here talking about immigration or gun control or any of the other many issues
that we consider, i wouldn't be taking the position that i am. i believe that the rules of the senate are important and that extended debate is an important part of the senate process. however, we're talking about fundamental structural changes that i believe in spite of your comments that in many states across the country are compromising the ability of our people to express themselves in an democracy. i consider that qualitatively different than a policy difference. and that's why i am here today to talk about revising the rules, not blowing up the filibuster, but to get back to what the filibuster actually means. and that is extended debate. i'm all for extended debate until we're exhausted, until
we've made a deal, until we've come to a compromise, but the problem is the filibuster, as we define it today, is a distant cousin of the real filibuster. the radical change in the filibuster isn't what's being discussed to date, it was made in 1975 almost by accident. in 1975 they were debating whether it should be two-thirds of senators present and voting or a lower number. and they compromised on 60 senators of sworn members. that was the focus of that discussion, and i talked to parliamentarians involved in that discussion. i asked the specific question, did they really realize what they were doing by creating the mail-in, dial-in, no effort filibuster? and the answer was no. they didn't discuss it, they didn't think of that. so what i'm talking about here today and what the proposal that will be on the floor later is to do exactly what this letter
says, extended debate -- extended debate, and that's why i believe that what we're proposing today is in the deepest tradition of the united states senate. what we are trying to scale back is the cheap, easy, dial-in from your office 60 votes de facto supermajority requirement which is not in the constitution which the framers expressly did not agree to. they put in a lot of checks and balances, two houses of congress, two-thirds voting on treaties, two-thirds voting on an amendment, confirmation of the president -- the president, the congress, the independence of the courts. all those were checks and balances. one of them was not a supermajority requirement in the united states senate.
hamilton and madison expressly said that that would turn democracy on its head. democracy ultimately is about majority rule and there should be minority rights. the minority should have every opportunity to speak, to offer amendments, to discuss, to offer germane amendments, i might add, to discuss, debate, but ultimately not have a veto. that's really what it comes down to here. do you have al rule that says the minority actually is in control of the legislative process? that's not what the framers intended. it's antithetical to what the framers intended. in fact, one of the reasons for the constitutional convention was the dysfunction of the articles of confederation and one of the reasons cited for that dysfunction was a supermajority requirement. so, yes, i voted -- what i
supported three years ago i still support. the language is full, robust, and extended debate and that's what's going to be proposed later on and i would -- if you guys will vote for it, this debate can go on, as it should, for weeks and perhaps months because it's that important. but i don't have any apologies to make. if i have to choose between a senate rule as it works now, which as i say, is a distant cousin of the real filibuster and democracy itself, i'm going to take democracy every single time. mr. cotton: i thank the senator from maine to explaining the change in position. i was not seeking an apology, just an explanation since ri have not heard -- since i have not heard that. the senator from maine said it is about the nature of the issue
at stake. there is nothing about the issue at stake or whether it is immigration, gun control or in this case election take overby laws. the senator from maine referred to the cheap and easy filibuster. i don't necessarily agree with that characterization, but i would say that was the kind of cheap and easy filibuster that was in place in 2017 when 28 democrats signed this letter. i will also point out that i wouldn't -- i heard the characterization that the current filibuster was created by accident in 1975. we can have a debate. but the rules and customs under debate today go back to the second decade -- the second decade of the united states senate and perhaps the more importantly, every time those rules have been modified, up to and including the most recent changes on the legislative calendar, they've been modified in affordance with the rules,
not using -- in accordance with the rules, not the nuclear option, breaking the rules so we can change the rules. we have the senior senator from colorado, we have the senior senator from new hampshire, we have the senior senator from montana, and we have the letter's chief democratic author, the junior senator from delaware. i asked earlier through the chair if any senators would like to change in their position. if they would like to join in the colloquy -- a senator: will the senator yield? mr. cotton: i will. mr. merkley: i am struck by your comment that in all previous situations -- in all previous
situations that the rules had been modified by a change of the rules that was done through the regular rule process. because i would encourage you to read up on your senate history. this is not the case. under senator byrd's leadership, nine times this chamber changed the interpretation of existing rules and they didn't do it through a formal rules change process. they did it with an interpretation of the chair being sustained or by reversing the interpretation of the chair. and you've been here when a nuclear option modified the rules, your party led the effort to change the requirement for closing debate on the supreme court. and you've been here, or i think you were here, your colleagues were here, they changed the
rules, not by changing the rules formally but by reinterpreting it through the nuclear otion by reducing -- option by reducing debate on district judges and your side changed the rules on how reconciliation is done in order to do tax cuts for the rich and then kent conrad on our side advocated change back and your side in preparation for the trump tax cuts of 2017 changed the rules again. at least let us understand that both sides, democrats and republicans, have resorted to reinterpreting the rules on various occasions. just a point of clarification that your statement was wrong. mr. cotton: i appreciate the comments of the senator from oregon and i want to commend him for principle consistency on
this. he did not sign the letter. one of the earliest conversations i had with any senator in 2015 was with the senator from oregon about these questions. he had the reservations about the cloture rule and extended debate. he has not changed his view on that position. so i commend him. he mentions the nuclear option on the supreme court. of course that simply followed what the former senate democratic leader harry reid did in 2013 on the executive calendar. that happened in february or march -- this is 2017. this letter was written in april of 2017. but if there's no more extended debate on this question -- i would invite the senator from virginia, through the chair. mr. kaine: mr. president, if i might respond.
senator cotton, what angus said and i'm so glad senator lankford stayed in the room because you said we changed our position. i'm glad you put it up, because others were saying that without it. we are united in our determination to preserve the ability of noams engage in extended debate when bills are on the senate floof. we couldn't even debate this bill. you guys wouldn't let us. you kept using the 60-vote block on the motion to proceed so we couldn't get on the bill. in the five years since 2017, many of us have come to realize this is what we want, but the current abuse of senate rules is blocking us from having discussions about voting rights or about matters that you think are important. this is -- this is still what we want. we want the ability to have
extended debate when bills are on the senate floor and that is what the motion will eventually be about when we vote on it later today, to move to a talking filibuster instead of a secret filibuster. the way to look at the rule change that we're going to contemplate later is if you really love the filibuster, and the word filibuster isn't in this letter at all, but if you really love the filibuster, do you demand that it stay secret or should it be carried out open publicly in view of the voters and your senate colleagues? that's what the vote will be. we have -- we have listened to those of you who said, don't abolish the filibuster, don't nuke the filibuster, don't blow up the filibuster, don't weaken the filibuster, and the only change we propose is that the filibuster be a public filibuster, not a secret one. you stood on the floor and asked if we would join you in that
operative phrase, engage in extended debate when bills are on the senate floor, the combination on the block of the motion to proceed together with the paper pocket filibuster where people do not have to show up to speak, much less to vote, we can restore the filibuster, frankly, to what it was during the vast majority of the senate's history and require that people actually do it and be accountable to their colleagues and to the public, and that's what we propose to do. mr. cotton: mr. president -- mr. president, i invite the senator from colorado to engage in colloquy. the presiding officer: the senator from -- the president pro tempore: the senator from colorado. a senator: i would also say -- mr. bennet: i want to be very clear that i don't want this place to turn into the house of representatives. i think that would be a huge mistake, and -- but it is it not behaving the way that the
founders designed it to behave and the history, you know, admittedly is opaque, but it is very clear to me that the modern abuse of the filibuster represents very little in the way of traditional senate practice or what the framers were considering. so i can imagine finding ourselves in a place where actually have extended debate and a public filibuster like we used to have. everybody remembers the movie version of that. they actually did that on the floor of the senate versus the secret filibuster that acts as a perpetual veto by the minority on the majority. something that the framers clearly were trying to avoid. and at the same time gives the minority the chance to hold the floor, persuade the american people of their point of view,
amend legislation in ways that is unimaginable in the house, and then in the end gives the majority the chance to actually make a decision so we can effectively compete with countries all over the world that aren't held up by the kind of veto we're talking about. there's not a legislative body in the world that i'm aware of except in any of the other countries with which we compete that has a filibuster. so i'd say that other piece of this, the idea that we're going to seesaw back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, i think the reality that's not what happens in other places that don't have a filibuster. and i believe we have the opportunity if we're actually having a public debate not sitting in our office or, you know, off fund raising but instead having a public debate on the floor of this senate that the american people can actually begin to hold people here accountable again for their position. on health care or guns or whatever it is.
we don't ever get the chance to do that here because we never even have a debate in the world's most deliberative body. so if we've got to -- if we've got a disagreement tonight about the form of all of this, my hope is that in the wake of this, if we're not successful, we actually do the american people a favor by creating a set of rules that actually will make this place work. i have been here now for 12 years. it's hard to believe. and i can tell you the senate doesn't work. it can't get its basic business done much less make hard decisions. and i think we can do better than that. and i hope we will. mr. cotton: mr. president, the senator from oklahoma was directly addressed and i believe he would like to engage in a brief colloquy. mr. lankford: thank you. to my friend through the chair, to the senator from virginia, thanks for the engagement. we'll continue to be able to engage me. part of our challenge on dealing with this dialogue today is none of our side has actually seen
the proposal tonight. it's a secret proposal that's coming out that all the conversation is this restores the talking filibuster. we're like really? what does it say? and then in the next i guess couple of hours, there's going to be a proposal pop and say here it is. we're changing the rules of the senate with a 51-vote when we even haven't had the opportunity to see it. so we talk about trying to be able to bring dialogue and debate on all these things, that's not dialogue and debate on the rules. that's trying to ram through a change with a straight 51 that none of us have even seen. and as we go through this on the -- you mentioned before on the letter that's out there, you're correct, i read the letter, not definitely read through the whole letter but i could have brought a bunk of quotes from folks that i see around the room that made statements like i will never change the legislative filibuster or i am 100% opposed to changing the legislative
filibuster or we should not change the filibuster using the nuclear option. so there were lots of other quotes from lots of other interviews because around 2017 when the letter came out, there was lots of media that asked point blank what do you mean by that. so there's a lot of clarification with it. you're right, i read the letter and has vague language but i could have read lots of quotes that we have that were very, very specific on it. the end of the day is if we're going to solve the issues in the senate, we're actually going to have to work together to solve the issues. what makes us the greatest deliberative body is that not 51 can do what they want. would will make us a great deliberative body is when we actually have to talk to each other wh. i was elected in 2014, most of the phone calls that came to me personally between november and january were some of you that called me. and said my name is. we're going to disagree on a lot of things but let's start working now on what we'll agree on. if we start doing away with these rules and just move it to a 51 basis, those conversations
end. and it's not a deliberative body. suddenly it's a we can get what we want with 51 body. that's the house. that's why we bring it up. i yield. mr. cotton: mr. president, before i move on from this letter, i have to note that as i've said several times, 28 democrats in the senate today signed that letter. 27 of them changed their position. there's one signatory who didn't change his position, that's the senator from west virginia. not only did he not change his position from that letter he signed, he's been consistent from the very gipg. he was also -- very beginning. he was also here in 2013 when we started down this path on the executive calendar. and there are differences to be sure between the executive calendar and the legislative calendar. but the senator from west virginia is the soul signatory still in the -- sole sig story still in the senate who has
still been consistent throughout. i want to commend him for that. i want to note for the record that the senator from arizona, apparently the only democratic senator who will oppose this maneuver did not sign the letter in 2017 because they was not in the senate in 2017. so, mr. president, in conc conclusion, why are we doing all this? why are we going down this road? is it because this legislation is so popular? this issue is so important? you would think it was the top issue on the minds of the majority of americans. but no. according to gallop, only 1% of americans list elections and federal election takeovers as their top priority. maybe the majority of americans support the procedural maneuvering here tonight, the overturning of 200 years of senate rules and customs. nope, wrong again according to a recent cbs poll, barely a third of americans support this. and while we're waiting here for
the democrats' doom charge to overturn 200 years of senate rules and customs and federalize our elections, americans are dealing with very real, concrete kitchen table issues. our people are getting poorer. inflation rose by 7% over the last year, the highest rate in 40 years. wages are failing to keep up. inflation might not be so bad for some of the millionaires around here with their stock portfolios and their real estate but for most americans it's crippling and it's most crippling for those who can least afford it. i shouldn't have to point out that people are dying in our communities all across the country. murder was up by its highest record level in the keeping modern records and it's up again this year. at a time when we also have a hundred thousand americans dying of overdoses, the highest number
ever recorded, another grim record. america is being overwhelmed on our southern border. border patrol is stopping more than 175,000 illegal immigrants at our southern border each month. we can only guest how -- guess how many more are getting through. these are all real problems that the american people have told us repeatedly they want us to address. but we haven't heard much about those problems. we're not here in session this week to debate those problems. the democrats apparently don't want to acknowledge these crises because they created these crises and they have no solution for these crises. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presidi -- the president pro tempore: the senator from new hampshire. a senator: just briefly, mr. president. i know i was scheduled to speak but i want to respond as one of the signatories of the letter. i associate myself with everything that the other sig takers -- signatories have talked about in terms of wanting to restore the senate's
tradition of extended debate on issues of grave importance to the american people. ms. hassan: but let me be clear about the reason that i now support, an adjustment to the long-standing rules of the senate. and it is because i never imagined when i signed that letter that not a single member of the republican party would stand up for our democracy since january 6 when we saw an acceleration of state laws that would allow partisans to overturn the impartial count of an election. we need to address the issues that so many of us have talked about here. the people of new hampshire, the people all across the country, they need us to address pressing issues like lowering the cost of prescription drugs or making it easy for families to afford child care.
but if we do not have a functioning democracy where people know that when they vote, that vote will be impartially counted and upheld and the people who are defeated will accept defeat so that they can have an accountable elected representation in washington, then there is no democracy. and when i signed that letter, i never imagined that today's republican party would fail to stand up for democracy. i was raised by a veteran of the battle of the bulge. he would talk to us at the breakfast table and the question was, what are you going to do for freedom today. big question to ask elementary schoolkids, to be sure. but he had a right to ask it as does every veteran who has fought for this country, including my colleague senator
cotton. but the republican party and the democratic party must unite to stand for freedom and to stand for an accountable democracy. because without that, the rules of this body do not matter. i yield the floor. the president pro tempore: the senator from illinois. ms. duckworth: mr. president, i can't think of a more important thing to be debating here in these chambers than the right to vote. but we cannot even get to that. we can't even get to that. because of the use of the filibuster to prevent us from having a vote, a discussion on the voting rights act. in america the path toward justice has always, always been intertwined with the right to vote. progress and enfranchisement have always been braided
together. billy clubs, whips, barbed wire, wrapped tubing, that's the way -- john lewis at the edmund pettus bridge in selma because it's never been easy. it's never been easy to fight for enfranchisement or to fight for that right to vote. there's always been a price to pay by those who focus on justice. shouted slurs, explosions of tear gas, pained screams and the clap of clubs against bone. those were the sounds that filled the air and lewis and hundreds of americans tried to march forward as they tried to bring their country forward one step at a time. most of us in this room know that those mothers and fathers of the civil rights movement, what they did for us that day. they raised their voice on that bridge so that fellow americans could raise their voices at the ballot box.
and tragically we also know that many in this chamber today appear unwilling to do their part to protect the rights those heroes fought for. more than a half century ago in this very building, senators from both sides of the aisle came together to pass the voting rights act, a bill designed to protect black americans, to protect all americans from the kind of racial discrimination that was so common in state-run elections at that time. of course, it's not possible to list out all the changes that have taken since that moment. more and more civil rights advocates stood up and sat in. more and more americans marched through and laid down in the streets and the moral arc of the universe that dr. king spoke of led to a little more justice with every hard-earned right they secured and every fight that they won. but sadly, damningly one other
change stands out as i speak here today. more than 50 years after the voting rights act became law, we can no longer say that a bipartisan majority of the senate is willing to protect the most basic tenet of our democracy. heck, we don't even have all of the senators in the room to discuss this. every american's right toe make their voice -- to make their voice heard is so critically important to our democracy. we can't say this because senate republicans have spent the past year blocking every democratic attempt to even begin debate on strengthening voter legislation. even as republicans and states around the country pass more and more restrictive voter suppression laws aimed at silencing the voice of the people, we still struggle and beg to have this debate, and they will not vote to allow us to do so. republicans in georgia made it illegal to preempty torely mail
out absentee ballots to registered voters, a law that hurts all groups that rely on voting by mail to communities with color and americans living with disabilities. it it also hurts military members living overseas. i myself voted by mail when i was serving our country in iraq. after all, i was a little busy flying combat missions, so i don't know if i would have had the chaens to request an -- chance to request an absentee ballot 15 days before the election if my unit had not assisted in that effort. not every unit may do that. so not having their ballots mailed to them would make it immeasurably harder for troops to vote wherever they may be serving. i can't understand why republicans want to make it harder for brave americans defending our democracy abroad to participate in it. but that's what they're doing. i can't understand how my republican colleagues can sit here today and ask paid staffers and pages to bring them water at
exactly the temperature they like with or without ice, sparkling or not sparkling, as they make their voices heard on the senate floor, and then say nothing, nothing to stop a law that makes it illegal to give water to americans waiting hours in line at polling stations as they seek to simply have their voices heard at the ballot box. listen, my five times great-grandfathers, likely inden churred servants without the right to vote, didn't fight in the revolutionary war and esh that -- earn that right to vote so people claiming to be the leaders of our generation could chip away at the fundamental idea that founded this nation, that everyone is equal, and my buddies and i and senator cotton didn't sign up to defend our democracy in war zones thousands of miles away only to watch it crumbble at the hands of powerful people more focused on their own self-interests than in the foundational component of
this extraordinary experiment we call america. that everyone, regardless of social status, wealth, skin color, sex, has a right to vote. page after page in our nation's history is marred by bigotry, tainted by intolerance, by injustice, but through every chapter, however dark the night, some brave americans have willed that there would be light. that march forward has always been to expand access to the polls, not to decrease it. for we expanded access for those who didn't own land, for black americans after the civil war, for women, for all americans. in world war ii black americans fought overseas for the same country that forced their families to sit at second lunch -- segregated lunch counters back home. then they came home and were forced to guess how many jelly beans were in a jar before they themselves could vote in a
country that they had fought for. asian americans fought to end slavery in the civil war, sacrificed to preserve this union, and then had their earned citizenship stripped away. decades later, their grandsons fought in europe, even as their loved ones were interred in camps on american soil. and we march forward, and we march on, and we expand the right to the ballot box. in the 1960's, white americans hopped on buses and risked their lives, freedom riding through the south, so those with darker skin could walk into the ballot box without fear of billy clubs. and americans from all backgrounds have packed their rucks, laced up their boots, and gone to war in places like iraq, lost their lives in places like afghanistan, to defend the most american belief that we all have a voice and we all have the right to use it, including at the polls. because voting to elect one's
own government is the core of that right. i'm not asking anyone to do anything nearly as difficult as putting on a uniform and going to war or crossing a bridge to be met with billy clubs. i'm not asking anybody to do anything that difficult today. i'm not asking my republican colleagues to risk their lives on a bus or a bridge in the heat of the american south or under the scorching sun of a desert in the middle east. all i'm asking for is the bare minimum. all i'm begging them to do is merely to not sit in silence in the face of grave injustice. to not let being partisan keep you from being a patriot. for the sake of all who have sacrificed for this nation, i at least refuse to remain silent. that's why i'm voting for these bills. that's why i'm trying to claw back some of the protections that republicans have spent the last year trying to erode on the back of the big lie, including expanded voter purges, increased
barriers for voters with disabilities, and harsher i.d. requirement. that's why i'm asking my colleagues, who claim to represent the party of lincoln, as the junior center from the land of lincoln, i ask you to act in a way that will further the cause of justice. that's why i'm working to restore the voting rights act, to expand early voting and vote by mail, to limit special interest money in politics, and to actually try to protect underserved communities and our servicemembers' rights to vote. because not only can our country do better, we have done better. back when we passed the voting rights act all those decades ago. not only can our chamber do more, we have done more, including the 16 republicans who are still in the senate today who have previously voted to reauthorization the voting rights act. and we owe more to those heroes who fought the fights before us, the trailblazers who marched
those bridges, and those in powerpoint -- while those in power broke their bones, whose skulls were cracked and blood was shed yet whose will never bent, whose determination never wavered, those heroes who never let what was hard deter them from doing what was right. we owe it to each of them, and to those whose rights are at risk today to pass this bill. thank you. i yield the floor.
a senator: mr. president, i want to start by thanking all of the senators who have come to the floor to make the case for democracy and for voting rights. mr. lujan:: the right to vote is the heartbeat of our democracy, it is a symbol of the progress that we have made in this chamber and the promise that we have made to the next generation of