In a stirring speech in defense of voting rights on Tuesday afternoon (watch above), Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) accused centrists in his party of having “misaligned values and misplaced priorities.”
Warnock delivered his speech in the upper chamber before casting a vote that raised the nation’s debt ceiling. Democrats united in temporarily neutralizing the GOP’s biggest obstructionist weapon – the filibuster – to pass the legislation with their threadbare majority. The House later approved the same bill.
Warnock wondered why his colleagues would suspend the filibuster on the debt issue but not on voting rights.
“We changed the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the United States government. We’ve decided we must do it for the economy, but not for the democracy,” Warnock said.
When I’m asked about bipartisanship—which I firmly believe in—I just have to ask, at what expense? Who is being asked to the foot the bill for this bipartisanship?
And is liberty itself the cost? pic.twitter.com/b7HVckQyIT
— Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (@SenatorWarnock) December 14, 2021
“I believe that it is misplaced to change the Senate rules only for the benefit of the economy when the warning lights on our democracy are flashing at the same time,” he added. “I happen to believe that our democracy is at least as important as the economy.”
“Future generations will ask ‘When the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out? Did we rise to the moment or hide behind procedural rules?'” he said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provides key context:
Senate Republicans have used the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes for bills to move forward, to block progress on a bill that would make Election Day a holiday, limit voter registration purges, allow people to register to vote and cast a ballot the same day, and create national standards for redistricting, early voting, drop boxes and voting by mail.
Republicans also stood against a separate measure named after former Georgia Congressman John Lewis that would reinstate federal oversight of changes to state election laws. Georgia is among dozens of states that passed new rules limiting access to the ballot after Democrats made gains during the 2020 election.
To move forward together as a nation, we must ensure that every American can cast a ballot so we can elect leaders who govern in our interests and make the promise of our democracy real for us all. We must demand that our Senators pass the #FreedomToVoteAct and John Lewis #VRAA.
— Common Cause (@CommonCause) December 11, 2021
Some of Warnock’s remarks seemed aimed at West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. The two Democrats have been reluctant to jettison the filibuster, which allows the minority party to kill legislation that doesn’t receive 60 Senate votes. Both have indicated that they’d rather pursue a bipartisan approach.
“Here’s the thing we must remember: Slavery was bipartisan,” Warnock said. “Jim Crow segregation was bipartisan. The refusal of women’s suffrage was bipartisan. The denial of the basic dignity of members of the LGBTQ community has long been bipartisan. The three-fifths compromise was the creation of a putative, national unity at the expense of Black people’s basic humanity. So when colleagues in this chamber talk to me about bipartisanship — which I believe in — I just have to ask, ‘at whose expense?'”