As the U.S. Senate on Tuesday began debating voting rights legislation intended to combat GOP attacks on democracy, progressive groups urged Democratic senators to hold the floor however long it takes to send a House-approved package to President Joe Biden's desk.
"Tens of thousands of people have mobilized for voting rights this year," Megan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy for Indivisible, said in a statement. "They deserve to see Democratic senators fighting for them and for our democracy by taking to the floor and making the case."
"We don't want a quick debate and a perfunctory vote," she added. "We want a full airing of the ways Republicans are undermining our right to vote across the countryon a partisan basis, for the recordand how the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would save our democracy from these attacks."
After former President Donald Trump began spreading his "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen from him, lawmakers in at least 19 states enacted 34 restrictive voting laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which warns that such efforts are expected to continue ahead of midterm elections later this year.
Republicans' lies about electoral security and ongoing voter suppression efforts have fueled demands for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which House Democrats recently consolidated into the single bill now before the Senate.
Despite widespread demands for Congress to advance the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act (H.R. 5746), Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have so far refused to support filibuster reform in order to overcome GOP obstruction of the legislation.
"Sen. Sinema said she wanted a robust debate," Hatcher-Mays pointed out. "She's about to see one between one political party that believes people should have the right to vote, and the other that only cares about power."
Noting that Sinema's opposition to abolishing or reforming the filibuster has been celebrated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Indivisible campaigner said the senator "can continue to be praised by the grim reaper of voting rights, or she can choose to do the right thing and get this bill passed."
Progressive advocacy groups are not only calling out both Sinema and Manchin but also urging Americans to call their senators at 833-346-1256 to show their support for the voting rights bill and filibuster reform by holding the floor as long as necessary to see it pass.
Indivisible has even put together a sample script:
Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I am from [CITY/STATE]. I'm calling Sen. [SENATOR NAME] to ask them to hold the floor with their colleagues for as long as it takes this week to get the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act passed, and vote in favor of any filibuster reform necessary to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
We urgently need to deliver transformational democracy reform. Will [SENATOR NAME] commit to joining their colleagues to hold the floor, keep debate going, and to fix the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act ASAP.
A day after surviving relatives of Martin Luther King Jr. led an action in the nation's capitol to demand the bill's passage, Stand Up America president and founder Sean Eldridge said Tuesday that the assassinated civil rights icon "warned us in his Letter from Birmingham Jail of the white moderate who fails to recognize the urgency of the moment in the struggle for civil rights and insists on compromise where none is possible."
"While Black and brown voters face increasing attacks on their freedom to vote, Sens. Manchin and Sinema continue to accept delay and inaction as they maintain their defense of the Jim Crow filibuster and wait for Republican support of voting rights that is not coming," he continued.
"As the Senate considers rules changes this week to protect the freedom to vote," he added, "Sens. Manchin and Sinema still have an opportunity to recognize the urgency of this moment and stand on the right side of history. Millions of Americans are counting on them."
"Senate Democrats are under no illusion that we face difficult odds, especially when virtually every Senate Republicanvirtually every Senate Republicanis staunchly against legislation protecting the right to vote," Schumer said from the chamber's floor.
The Democratic leader continued:
But I want to be clear: when this chamber confronts a question this importantone so vital to our country, so vital to our ideals, so vital to the future of our democracyyou don't slide it off the table and say "never mind."
Win, lose, or draw, members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, especially on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as voting rights. And the public is entitled to know where each senator stands on an issue as sacrosanct as defending our democracy.
The American people deserve to see their senators go on record on whether they will support these bills or oppose them. Indeed, that may be the only way to make progress on this issue now: for the public to see where each of us in this chamber stands.
"The public deserves to see it," he added. "And that is exactly, precisely, what the Senate is going to do this week."
Senate Democrats have a caucus meeting planned for early Tuesday evening, after which Schumer plans to hold a press conference currently scheduled to start around 6:00 pm ET.