3/15 – Filibuster (and Georgia) On My Mind

Published: 3.15.21

Today, the New York Times has the definitive piece on H.R.1, the For the People Act, and the  current voting rights fight, calling it “the most consequential political struggle over access to the ballot since the civil rights era, a fight increasingly focused on a far-reaching federal overhaul of election rules in a last-ditch bid to offset a wave of voting restrictions sweeping Republican-controlled state legislatures.”

While VPP Advisory Board member and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called for bipartisan support for H.R.1 and other pro-democracy measures in a Newsweek op-ed, the Times reports that this entire effort “increasingly appears to be on a collision course with the filibuster.”

On the 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, and VPP Chair Ambassador Norm Eisen noted in an op-ed for USA Today last week: “There’s no time to wait while state-level suppression bills gain steam. The Senate’s anti-majoritarian filibuster rules should not stand in the way of H.R. 1’s consideration.” The trio go on to remind us that the filibuster rules have “a long history of propping up racist policies, and if they clear the way for a new wave of voter suppression disproportionately targeting Black and brown Americans, that shameful history will add a new chapter.”

As democracy denial continues to run rampant among some, including former President Donald Trump, VPP Advisory Board member and former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer and VPP Chair Eisen wrote that they “believe the combination of civil cases and a pair of rapidly accelerating state criminal investigations make for a potent force to combat the ex-president’s ongoing wrongdoing,” in a Washington Post op-ed.

National Update

Now or Never?: In regard to voting rights, Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, called the current dynamics at the state and federal level “a once-in-a-generation moment.” For H.R.1 to get to President Joe Biden’s desk, supporters of the bill will either need 60 votes in the Senate or “will have to convince a handful of moderate holdouts to change the [filibuster] rules, at least for this legislation.” There is at least one area of bipartisan agreement right now: the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Voting Rights First: Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams told CNN’s Jake Tapper that, while she doesn’t believe the Senate needs to fully eliminate the filibuster, they ought to carve an exemption into the filibuster for bills protecting democracy.

Both Sides: VPP’s Whitman wrote in Newsweek that the Big Lie “continue[s] to put our public safety at risk—just as we saw unfold on the conspiracy-fueled January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. If we do not act quickly, we risk continued harm to the bedrock of our democracy: free and fair elections.” Whitman calls for Democrats and Republicans to come together in protecting the freedom to vote through legislation like H.R. 1 and on accountability efforts like a commission on the January 6 attack.

From the White House to the Big House? While former President Donald Trump was able to successfully delay personal accountability while occupying the White House, he is POTUS no more. VPP’s Ayer and Eisen offer that: “Trump is a private citizen. His friends in Congress are less reliably loyal. He must defend himself. This is not to say that exacting justice will be easy — as a private businessman, Trump was notorious for using the law as a weapon.” The pair outline the combination of civil cases and state criminal investigations that indicate legal woes in the ex-President’s future, before signing off with the reminder to us all that “It is not easy to be involved in politics if you are broke and in jail.”

State Updates

Georgia: In USA Today, Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown, co-founders of the Black Voters Matter Fund, warned that voting restriction measures in Georgia may soon come to other states around the country. Citing the biblical adage that “to whom much is given, much is required,” they laid down the line. “Black voters literally risked their lives to vote during this pandemic” and “Black voters helped to save a democracy that has barely ever saved [them].” The co-founders close their piece by demanding President Biden honor the legacy of Bloody Sunday by “using every tool at his disposal” to “ end the filibuster and pass these two vital voting rights bills.”

Additionally, Georgia-based corporations are under increasing pressure to join the fight for voting rights, with an organized campaign targeting Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Aflac, and other Georgia-based companies

North Carolina: This week, when asked about potential bills to limit voting in the Tar Heel State, Republican State Senate leader Phil Berger said that we’ll “see some legislation.” North Carolina was home to some of the most bitter fights over voting in the past decade. While states like Georgia and Arizona are considering bills to limit absentee by mail voting, North Carolina has been quiet in 2021 -– so far. As the local NPR affiliate reported, “everyone is waiting for that to change.” According to Berger, it’s no longer a matter of if — it’s only a matter of when and what.

Texas: Texas legislators introduced a slew of restrictive election bills, taking particular aim at early voting. More than two dozen bills are under consideration in the legislature, including efforts to tighten ID requirements and voter rolls, limit early voting, and increase the penalties for errors. NBC reported that, “the broad interest—and a mandate from the governor to prioritize election legislation—makes changes to Texas’ election law likely this year.”

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