Raphael Warnock calls out Manchin, Sinema for holding up voting rights bill: 'Slavery was bipartisan'

Raphael Warnock calls out Manchin, Sinema for holding up voting rights bill: 'Slavery was bipartisan'
Raphael Warnock in August 2020, Wikimedia Commons

As Republicans in state legislatures all over the Untied States continue to push voter suppression bills, a variety of liberal, progressive and centrist Democrats are stressing the need to get a voting rights bill passed by both houses of Congress and onto President Joe Biden’s desk for signature. One of the liberal Democrats who has prioritized voting rights, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, passionately called out supporters of voter suppression during a Tuesday, December 14 speech on the Senate floor.

“The judgment of history is upon us," Warnock told fellow U.S. senators. “Future generations will ask: When the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out?”

Warnock spoke the truth about U.S. democracy being in a state of emergency. The voter suppression bills that Republicans are pushing are not only dangerous because of the many ways in which they make voting more difficult, but also, because of the ways in which some of them seek to replace bipartisan election boards with GOP-controlled election boards. Supporters of voting rights, including some Never Trump conservatives, have been warning that if overtly partisan Republicans have total control of election systems, they will be in a position to simply throw out any election results they don’t like.

Two centrist Democrats who stand in the way of getting a voting rights bill passed in the U.S. Senate are Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — not because they support voter suppression, but because of their staunch, unwavering support of the filibuster. Although Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate, they don’t have the 60 votes needed to meet the filibuster’s demands.

An exception to the filibuster could be created for voting rights, enabling Democrats to get a voting rights bill through the Senate with only a simple majority rather than the 60-vote requirement. But Manchin and Sinema have so far resisted such an exception, and Sinema has stressed that Democrats will be glad to have the filibuster when Republicans regain control of the Senate in the future.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on June 21, Sinema wrote, “Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a COVID-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.”

Manchin and Sinema have also emphasized their desire for bipartisan cooperation. Sinema, who often frustrates liberals and progressives but is popular among independents, Never Trump conservatives and moderates in her state, considers the late Sen. John McCain her idol and is on very friendly terms with his daughter, GOP activist and former “The View” co-host Meghan McCain.

But Warnock, without actually mentioning Manchin or Sinema by name, argued that bipartisanship is not positive when one of the parties is promoting something that is harmful and destructive — such as voter suppression.

Warnock told fellow senators, “Here’s the thing we must remember: Slavery was bipartisan. Jim Crow segregation was bipartisan. The refusal of women’s suffrage was bipartisan. The denial of the basic dignity of members of the LGBTQ community has long been bipartisan. The three-fifths compromise was the creation of a putative, national unity at the expense of Black people’s basic humanity. So, when colleagues in this chamber talk to me about bipartisanship — which I believe in — I just have to ask, ‘At whose expense?’”

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