We are now just over a quarter into President Joseph Biden’s four-year term.
At this time last year, I was a bit nervous for what the future held for me, but I still managed to keep my hopes high.
I was nervous due to the fact that we had just seen over 2,000 extremists storming the Capitol with a desire to dismantle our democratic process, but also full of hope, because after the coup attempt, Americans across the country heard Biden talk about unity and how he would serve as president for all Americans. This speech emphasized compromise and coalition, something I so longed to hear under former President Donald Trump.
I no longer have the hope I had at the start of last year, and while I am far from desperate, the disappointment caused by the Biden administration‘s failure to usher in some kind of meaningful change, and the GOP’s reluctance to compromise, has been overwhelming.
From the climate regulations we failed to establish at COP26 to the COVID cases that continue to rise across the country, the Biden administration has produced disappointment after disappointment, not to mention the fact that we are arguably also divided. than ever.
It makes me wonder: Are we really better under President Biden than we were under President Trump? While it’s been a tumultuous year to say the least, it’s my personal opinion that yes, at the moment we are. However, with three years remaining in Biden’s term, only time will tell.
One of Biden’s goals that had not yet wavered was his desire to push through electoral reforms. In 2021, voting reform had no trouble making its way through the House of Representatives. However, the Senate was a different story.
These two bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act, would bring about some of the most important protections for the right to vote in more than half a century.
If passed, the Free Voting Act would make Election Day a statutory holiday, increase the number of acceptable IDs in states that require ID, require states to offer voting time two weeks before polling day and would ban gerrymandering.
The Free Suffrage Act involves various voting reforms, but the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act seeks to overturn a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act. vote of 1965.
He seeks to reimpose a ruling that southern states sought permission from the Justice Department to change their election laws.
If passed, the John Lewis bill would reintroduce that process for requiring states to get permission from the Justice Department if they want to change election laws and create a new method for determining which states should get permission. in the first place.
The biggest hurdle the bills have to overcome is the Senate filibuster, a tactic used by senators of both parties for centuries to kill bills and delay legislation. In 2021, Biden has repeatedly called for curbing the power of the filibuster. His stance hardened in January.
“I support changing the Senate rules the way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights,” Biden said Jan. 11.
It is crucial that we obtain federal protection of the vote. In 2021 alone, 19 different states passed more than 30 separate laws that restricted the right to vote in one form or another. Without these federal protections, this trend is sure to continue.
While restricting the filibuster would make it much easier to pass laws, there are other reasons to do so. I believe the filibuster needs to be changed or amended because it has a long history of denying minorities civil and voting rights while perpetuating racism in this country.
The filibuster dates back to the 1800s, but in the 20th century white supremacists and segregationists weaponized it. Between 1922 and 1938, senators used the filibuster to prevent the passage of anti-lynching laws.
The injustices of the filibuster did not stop there. In 1957, former Senator Strom Thurmond, DS.C., set the record for the longest filibuster, in 24 hours. His goal? To prevent passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Despite Thurmond’s best efforts, the bill became law, but not before the end of the year.
A similar case occurred in 1964, when Southern Democrats maintained a filibuster for more than 60 days in an effort to block the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Politicians like former President Barack Obama recognize the deep-rooted relationship between filibuster and racism in America. In 2020, after Lewis’s death, Obama was adamant about changing the filibuster rules to pass voting legislation.
“If all of this requires eliminating the filibuster, another relic of Jim Crow, in order to secure the divine rights of every American, then that’s what we should be doing,” Obama said.
Most Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of making changes to the filibuster. Most, but not all.
On January 19, Democratic efforts to change the filibuster rules failed when the Senate voted 52 to 48 to reject the changes. Two sitting Democrats and supporters of the filibuster, Senators Kristin Sinema, D-Arizona, and Joe Manchin, DW.Va., voted against party lines and effectively killed any chance of changing the rules surrounding the systematic obstruction.
Both Manchin and Sinema have a history of defending the filibuster, with Manchin seeing it as a safeguard and a tool to foster bipartisanship.
Sinema also sees the filibuster as a way to force bipartisan cooperation. She thinks future policies will be too easy to reverse without it.
“We will lose more than we win,” Sinema said.
It is ironic that Sinema and Manchin so stubbornly defend the filibuster. Crucially, last December Democrats passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. The reason this legislation passed so easily was due to a unique exception included in the bill, which did not require the 60 votes needed to file a closure motion, the current method of ending a filibuster.
A quick look at the voting summary for this December 14, 2021 voting session shows that Manchin and Sinema voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling, the filibuster exception and all.
To me, this shows that Manchin and Sinema do not consider filibuster as sacred as they have implied.
Securing voting rights legislation will guarantee the right to vote for every American. Additional safeguards may also limit the likelihood of another insurgency such as January 6, 2021.
Because of senators like Manchin and Sinema, the path to adequate voting rights has not only been made harder to achieve, but is actually insulted as they defend the filibuster in the same breath; a tool that has been used to defend racist action and attitude in our legislative branch throughout American history.
I am exhausted to hear how our Congress is too incompetent and moving too slowly to accomplish anything. This slow nature is only compounded by filibusters and the difficulties associated with ending a filibuster by asking for closure.
Eliminating, or at the very least changing, the filibuster rules would allow meaningful legislation to come into force and help reduce the number of deadlocks the Upper House is known for.
After all, even more than a hundred years ago people were calling the filibuster and questioning its lack of effectiveness.
“The United States Senate is the only legislative body in the world that cannot act when its majority is ready to act,” former President Woodrow Wilson said in response to a 1917 filibuster. willful men, representing no opinion but their own, has rendered the great government of the United States impotent and contemptible.”
Noah Herbst can be reached at [email protected] or @NoahHerbst13 on Twitter.