The Biden administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are focusing renewed energy and attention on what they say is a critical need to pass legislation to protect voting rights across the country. Two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, have passed the House, but have been blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
Signaling their commitment to prioritize passage of the voting rights measures, President Biden and Vice President Harris both mentioned the threat to the right to vote in their January 6 commemoration speeches at the Capitol last week, and each will make remarks in Georgia on Tuesday on the subject ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Democrats see the legislation as a necessary response to bills that have been passed in Republican-led states across the country in response to unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
"What they are doing," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Sunday on Face the Nation, "they are not only suppressing the vote...they are nullifying elections, saying, 'Well it doesn't matter who gets more votes, it matters who the three people we appoint to analyze that, what they decide.' We cannot let that happen."
In order to get past the GOP's opposition in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is promising to hold a vote no later than next Monday's holiday on changing the filibuster rules, which currently require at least 60 votes to bring most bills up for a vote.
Oklahoma Senator James Lankford has been outspoken in criticizing both the idea of tampering with the filibuster, as well as, the notion that the states need the federal government to safeguard future elections.
“Democrats want to federalize our elections over the states and local authorities in blue and red states," said Sen. Lankford in a statement. "Their absurd overreach only benefits keeping them in power and is not what’s in the best interest of Americans.”
Lankford says Schumer's threat to change Senate rules is a threat to the nation. "For over two centuries, the Senate is the one place in our government where minority opinions have a voice, unless Senator Schumer gets his way. In 2017, 32 Senate Democrats signed a letter saying that the filibuster should not change—27 of those Democrats are still in the Senate."
In 2017, despite those protests from Democrats, Lankford joined 51 other Republicans in voting to amend Senate Rules and eliminating the use of the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees. Then-President Trump had just nominated Neil Gorsuch to the high court and Democrats, still angered that Sen. Mitch McConnell refused to allow President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to move forward in 2016, were vowing to use the filibuster to stop Gorsuch's confirmation.