WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley issued the following statement after Senate Republicans refused to proceed to debate and filibustered the first Senate vote on the Freedom to Vote Act. Merkley has been helping to lead negotiations within the Senate on legislation that would protect Americans’ freedom to vote, stop billionaires from buying elections, and end partisan gerrymandering, and is a lead sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act.
Democrats have sought in good faith to engage across the aisle, but through this vote, Republicans have once again demonstrated their unwillingness to even open debate on the policies needed to preserve our freedom to vote.
“We have a coronavirus pandemic that is challenging our nation and threatening the health of Americans. But in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and so many other states across the country, there is a second virus sweeping across the land: It’s called voter suppression, and it’s threatening the health of our democracy.
“Preserving and protecting our ‘We the People’ form of government should not be a partisan issue, and I commend Senator Manchin for going above and beyond to reach out to our Republican colleagues and to exhaust every avenue before we held this vote. Unfortunately, once again, Republican senators rejected any attempts to work together on behalf of our democracy, and instead filibustered to ensure the continuing corruption of our election systems.
“Nineteen states have already passed bills to block targeted groups of Americans from voting. Billionaires continue to buy elections with dark money. And Republican state officials, as we speak, are laying out their plans to rig the new round of legislative districts to seize power by denying Americans fair and equal representation.
“This legislation would end all of these tactics so the People—whatever their political affiliation, geography, skin color, or income—have the protected right to shape the decisions that affect us all and to elect politicians who reflect their values. That is an American value, not a partisan one. Seizing power by denying your political rivals an equal chance to vote is a diabolical threat to our constitutional vision and Americans’ freedom.
“This obstruction was, sadly, expected, and makes clear just how broken the Senate is. We must restore the Senate’s ability to take on the big challenges, to debate the big issues and consider the views of Senators from both sides of the aisle, and ultimately to pass legislation. Our rights and freedoms hang in the balance.”