A coalition of 69 Progressive groups, including multiple Indivisible and Swing Left chapters, called on Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in a letter on Tuesday, to either swiftly pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to avoid a long GOP filibuster by the end of November, or resign.
The group noted that GOP lawmakers in Washington have implemented the filibuster against multiple voting rights bills since the summer, effectively blocking the attempts by Democrats over and over again to rewrite and overhaul voting law in the U.S.
Senator Feinstein, a major supporter of both bills, was specifically called out by the Progressive groups on Tuesday due to both her inaction on the bills besides giving her vote and support and not calling for a swift vote. The groups believe that her status as the most senior Democratic Senator would give the needed influence to call for a “swift passage” of the laws and bypass any further filibusters by the Republicans. As passage of the laws would lead to greater voter registration access and would effectively reduce state control in their own voting laws, Democrats would likely be in a better position in many races in the 2022 election. Republicans, concerned over the severely loosened voter registration rules and the increased chances for fraudulent votes if the bills are passed, have been implementing the filibuster as one of their last legislative tolls left.
The Progressive groups added in the letter that if Feinstein can’t, or won’t call for a swift passage and end the filibuster that she should resign so that “someone more willing” can take her place.
“We ask that you, publicly and by the end of November, call for the swift passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” the groups said in their letter. “We further ask that you clearly and unequivocally call for abolishing or providing a voting rights exception to the Senate filibuster, which is being used to block consideration of both bills. If you are unwilling to take these steps to protect our democracy, we ask that you resign and allow Governor Newsom to appoint a successor who is willing and able to fight for the survival of our country.”
“We and many other groups have written to you a number of times throughout the year. We have been in regular conversation with your staff, both in California and in Washington, DC. Our members have called, written, and demonstrated. We have done this because our democracy is in grave danger.”
“We have repeatedly made the case that Republicans all over the country are passing laws at the state level which will obstruct people’s right to vote, will allow the intimidation of voters, will gerrymander districts in order that politicians may choose their voters rather than being chosen by them, and will give Republicans the ability to reject election results they don’t like. The passage of these new laws is being accompanied by a purge of responsible election officials nationwide and by the deliberate escalation of violence meant to intimidate officials, from school boards to state houses.”
“We recognize that passage of these democracy-saving bills will take the votes of all fifty Democratic senators. We realize that you cannot deliver those votes, nor do you control the process for moving the bills forward. But you have a voice. You are the most senior Democrat in the Senate, with a long and admirable record of achievement, whose voice carries weight with the public and with conservative Democratic senators. We implore you to not let our nation’s democracy die without even a fight.”
“Senator Feinstein, we need you to step up, now. We need you to call for the swift passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And we need you to clearly and unequivocally call for abolishing or providing a voting rights exception to the Senate filibuster so that this may be accomplished. We need you to step up and fight for our democracy and for the United States of America. If you can’t or won’t, please step aside so that someone more willing can take your place.”
Frustration over the GOP filibuster
While Feinstein has yet to respond as of Tuesday afternoon, many political commentators noted that while the groups are asking for a quick passage, actions like filibusters cannot simply be put down.
“First of all, Feinstein has virtually zero power in this situation to stop a filibuster,” said Michelle Ingram, a Washington-based legislative procedures expert and consultant to the Globe on Tuesday. “The most she can do is politely ask and maybe use her status as a long-time Senator to help build up a large group of 60 Senators to stop it, something that is known as a cloture. But even if they can persuade blue dog and conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Republicans that straddle to being more liberal, they simply won’t have enough to stop a filibuster. She could call on ‘swift passage’ all she wants, but she won’t have cloture.”
“Democrats are also hesitant to restrict the filibuster because they could be needing to use it themselves in a few years if they lose the Senate, so they don’t want to be hoisted by their own petard down the road.”
“And then there’s the fact that they are calling for her to resign if she doesn’t do the thing she can’t do. Other Senators may now be put off by supporting the bill if they know there are shenanigans like this happening behind the scenes. The filibuster might be being abused a bit the way it keeps blocking things, but they are still well within their rights to keep doing it. To me, these groups are frustrated and are looking at any way to see these passed before the election next year.”
Both bills are expected to be filibustered by the GOP until at least early next year.
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