Ahead Of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Durbin Calls On Senate Republicans To Support Voting Rights Of All Americans

WASHINGTON – Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today called on his colleagues to support important voting rights legislation that will come before the Senate this week – the bipartisan John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, as well as the Freedom to Vote Act.  

“For some of us, Martin Luther King [Jr.] Day will be a day of reflection, a chance to envision in America what it truly means to be free at last.  But it is also a day of action.  Let’s hope we have some action here on the floor of the United States Senate,” said Durbin.  “There are many enduring victories that we can attribute to Dr. King and the civil rights movement, but the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are certainly high on the list.  These laws put a stake in the heart of Jim Crow, expanding voting rights to generations of Black Americans.”

Durbin continued, “Right now, millions of American voters are facing a new wave of voter suppression laws, and much like the proponents of Jim Crow laws did in their day, Republican state lawmakers today are erecting new barriers to the ballot box, latched onto the myth of, ‘widespread voter fraud.’… The reality is the laws they’re passing in these states are not about preventing voter fraud.  They’re about preventing eligible Americans from voting.”

During his speech, Durbin argued that if Republicans continue to filibuster voting rights legislation, Senate Democrats must be prepared to support changes to the Senate rules in order to protect Americans’ right to vote. 

“There should be an exception written in for the filibuster when it comes to voting rights.  Something as fundamental as our constitutional authority to vote should be given a day for argument on the floor of the Senate and should be subject to a vote – a majority vote up or down.  That’s not too much to ask,” Durbin said. 

Durbin concluded, “…the issue that we’re debating on voting rights and the issue of our rules is not just a casual conversation about a rule book that hardly no one knows of.  It’s an issue that goes to the heart of our democracy… We’ve been told that we are breaking the Senate if we change this rule to protect people’s right to vote.  At the heart of what the Senate is and what it stands for—and the reason it exists—is the right of Americans to vote.  Is it worth a carve-out?  Is it worth a change?  Is it worth a modification in the Senate rules to protect the right to vote?  Can anything be more sacred?”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.