In a powerful speech Tuesday on the Senate floor, Raphael Warnock, a Democratic Senator from Georgia, urged conservative members of his party not to block voting rights legislation. Although Warnock didn’t name Senators Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema in his speech, he said that the senators opposed the elimination of the filibuster to allow Democrats to pass both the Freedom to Vote Act (the Freedom to Vote Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Warnock stated that Republicans were unlikely to join the effort in order to protect democracy, and that only a change of the filibuster could ensure passage of the bills. “Who is being asked to foot the bill for this bipartisanship? And is liberty itself the cost?” Warnock said.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN:This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we end today’s show with Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock’s powerful speech from the floor of the Senate Tuesday as he called on the conservative members of the Democratic Party to stop obstructing voting rights legislation. He didn’t name Senators Joe Manchin and Sinema, who have come out against doing away with the filibuster in order to allow Democrats to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK: “Conniving methods that were getting in the way of the free exercise of the constitutional right to vote,” his rallying cry that day, in 1957, was “Give us the ballot.” So, Madam President, in light of the conniving methods of voter suppression we have seen enacted into law since the January 6th attack on the Capitol, I come to the floor today to share with the people of Georgia and the American people the message that I shared with my colleagues over the weekend and earlier today during our caucus meeting.
To my Democratic colleagues, I stated that number one, unfortunately the vast majority of our Republican friend have made it clear to me that they don’t intend to work alongside us to address voter suppression. They have embodied by their actions the sentiments of conservative strategist Paul Weyrich, who dared say in 1981, quote, “I don’t want everybody to vote.” That’s what he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They have not been since the beginning of our country. As a matter of fact,” he went on to say, “our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Second thing I said to my Democratic colleagues today is that while we cannot let our Republican friends off the hook for not being equitable governing partners, if we are serious about protecting the right to vote that’s under assault right now, here is the truth: It will fall to Democrats to do it. Democrats alone can raise the debt ceiling. Democrats must then raise and fix the ceiling of democracy. How can we, in good conscience, justify doing one or another?
Some of my Democratic colleagues are saying, “Well, what about — what about bipartisanship? Isn’t that important?” I say, of course it is. But 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 basic dignity to members of the LGBTQCommunity has been bipartisan for a long time. The three-fifths compromise was the creation of a putative national unity at the expense of Black people’s basic humanity. So when I hear colleagues in this chamber speak to me about bipartisanship which I believe in and they ask me: At whose expense? Who is being asked for the money to pay for bipartisanship? And what about liberty? I submit that that’s a price too high and a bridge too far.
So I struggled this weekend. I spoke with people I believe. I spoke to Reverend Andrew Young about this vote, who was there until the very end with Dr. King. I talked to Ambassador Young, and I asked him, “What do you think?” And he said, “I try not to worry, but I’m worried about our country.” And then this 89-year-old battle-worn soldier in the nonviolent army of the Lord drew silent on the phone. And then he said to me, “Tell your colleagues that among your constituents are people who literally laid their lives on the line for the basic right to vote. They lost many friends. They lost so much.”
This is a moral dilemma for me and makes it difficult to vote today. I have had many conversations with colleagues and with Georgians with experts on the economy, voting rights advocates, and civil rights leaders. But, I am certain that I will vote today with anguish. I will vote for raising the debt ceiling. I’m voting yes because I’m thinking about the kids in the Kayton Homes housing projects where I grew up in Savannah, Georgia. I’m thinking about the hardworking families pushing to recover from the pressures of this pandemic, those who are on the margins and those who are least resilient, for whom a collapse of the economy would be catastrophic. Ironically, many are the same people being targeted by voter suppression efforts that I mentioned earlier. I’m thinking of them and the people of Georgia as I cast my vote today to raise the debt ceiling.
But I’m also thinking about what we need to do to keep our democracy and our economy strong today and for the next generation. After we have dealt with the debt ceiling, the Senate must make voting rights the next issue it takes up. Voting rights must be addressed immediately.
So let me be clear: I’m so proud of what we did with the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the major economic investments we’re putting finishing touches on that will close the Medicaid coverage gap and deliver historic relief to Georgia farmers and expand broadband access and so much more. But, Madam President —
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Democratic Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock’s excerpt of a powerful speech from the floor of the Senate Tuesday as he called on conservative members of his own party to stop obstructing voting rights legislation. Reverend Warnock also serves as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, which was Dr. Martin Luther King’s spiritual home.
This concludes our show. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Mary Conlon. Our general manager is Julie Crosby. Becca Staley (General Manager), Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo and Miguel Nogueira are special thanks. For all our shows, visit democracynow.org. Also, you can check us out at InstagramOn FacebookOn Twitter. I’m Amy Goodman. Remember that wearing a mask is an act in love.