Durbin To Senate Republicans: Join us In Protecting the Right To Vote

Durbin: when it comes to eligible voters, should we create obstacles of hardship or should we make it easier for them to vote?

WASHINGTON – During a speech on the Senate floor, 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.  In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin also discussed the continued threat to our democracy posed by Donald Trump’s “Big Lie.”  

“We staged a national election in 2020, in light of the pandemic that was looming over this nation.  We opened up opportunities to vote and two things happened.  We had the most dramatic turnout of voters in the United States of America for the Office of President—we’d never seen that kind of turnout of voters.  And number two, when the agencies of government took a close look at the votes that were cast, they found no evidence, virtually none, of voter fraud or manipulation of the outcome of the election,” Durbin said. 

Durbin continued, “It was that argument [Donald Trump’s ‘Big Lie’] that was the inspiration behind the insurrectionist mob that was here in the Capitol building a little over a year ago, trying to stop the Electoral College vote count.  They failed, as they should have.  The Constitution prevailed.  The will of the American people prevailed.  And so, in legislatures across the country… we see Republican legislatures saying we are unhappy with the results in the 2020 election.  We want to change the rules when it comes to voting in our state.  And almost without exception, every change in these Republican legislatures results in a limited time to vote, a limited opportunity to vote, new obstacles to vote, on and on and on… It gets down to the bottom line: when it comes to eligible voters, should we create obstacles of hardship or should we make it easier for them to vote?”

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. 

“So that is the issue of voting rights in America that now comes to the floor of the United States Senate… Despite what you may have heard on the floor earlier, the use of the filibuster—I should say the abuse of the filibuster—has led to the elimination, virtually, of debate and amendments on the floor… It’s stopping us from doing anything substantial on voting rights,” Durbin said.  “The filibuster is designed for people who want to say no—no to progress, no to government, no to the Senate being engaged in the issues that affect the American people and families.”

Durbin concluded, “…for the voting rights of Americans to have a chance to be protected.  And for the voting rights of Senators to finally be engaged on the floor in that process, we have to be ready to make a change.  I’m ready.  As I said, I’m ready to do it on a bipartisan basis.  But for goodness sake, this empty, silent chamber is no indication of what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created this legislature.  We’re supposed to be engaged in debate, not afraid of debate.  We shouldn’t be running off and hiding behind 60 votes.  I’m open for change.  I wish some Republicans would join us.”

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.

In November, Durbin worked with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) to create a bipartisan compromise on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.  This proposal – which builds on the version introduced earlier in October – reflects months of bipartisan negotiations and seeks to garner broader support in the Senate.