President Joe Biden urged senators to “stand up against voter suppression” in a speech Tuesday, January 11, 2022, calling on Congress to pass voting rights legislation, which has been blocked in recent months by a Senate filibuster. has given.
Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris on the grounds of Morehouse College in Georgia, the president called for passing the Freedom to Vote Act, which Biden said would “help protect our democracy.”
The Freedom to Vote Act will help end voter suppression across the country, especially in several Republican states where restrictive voter laws were passed in 2021.
The president also called for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would also seek to end voter suppression.
With Republican senators blocking both acts, Biden called for an end to the filibuster.
What is a filibuster?
A filibuster is a motion made by the Senate that is “designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment, or other debatable question.” The Senate website explains.
According to the US Congressional Research Service: “Filibustering includes any use of procrastinating or obstructive tactics to prevent a measure from being voted on. The potential for filibusters exists because Senate rules place certain limits on the rights and opportunities of senators in the legislative process.
“Most bills are, in fact, subject to potentially at least two filibusters before a Senate vote upon final passage: first, a filibuster on a motion to proceed for consideration of the bill, and, second, a filibuster on this motion of the Senate. After agreeing to the proposal, a filibuster bill itself,” Service explains.
In 1917, the Senate enacted a procedural rule known as a “clutcher,” which required a two-thirds majority among senators to eliminate a filibuster. That rule was updated in 1975, reducing the number of votes required to three-fifths of the Senate. This means that today, a vote of 60 out of 100 senators is needed to end a filibuster, Senate website says.
Why is the filibuster strategy so controversial?
Recent years have been particularly controversial, with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the current Senate.
Democrats fear they won’t be able to garner the 10 Republican votes needed to end filibusters on key legislation on voting rights as well as other major national issues such as LGBTQ rights and immigration.
Voting rights legislation has been at the fore in the debate around filibuster in recent months as Republicans embrace tighter voting restrictions in some states.
According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice, at least 19 states have passed 33 new laws in the past year that have created stringent voter identification requirements, shortened early voting periods and—among other new restrictions— Also the vote-by-mail deadline has been shortened. at New York University School of Law.
Last year in Georgia (A major battlefield state in the 2020 elections), a bill The rewritten election rules were signed by state Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
The bill empowers the state election board to interfere with county election offices and remove and replace local election officials. The move raised concerns that the Republican-controlled board could further influence the administration of the election, including the certification of county results, According to the Associated Press,
With increasing polarization between Democrats and Republicans, the number of filibuster votes has increased dramatically over the past 50 years, from six during 1969–1970 to 298 in the 2019-2020 legislative session, According to Reuters.