Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding how President Trump’s Big Lie led to both the January 6th insurrection and Republican assaults on voting rights across the country, and the need for the Senate to take action to protect our democracy. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
At the start of the new year, Senate will proceed on an urgent and fundamental matter: protecting our democracy and strengthening the right to vote in free and fair elections. Later today I will meet with a number of my colleagues to continue our conversation on voting rights, and I’ll meet with our entire caucus for the first time this year to talk about how we’re going to move forward. There’s been constant discussion among members over the break, constant. I must have made a minimum of ten phone calls every single day with maybe the exception of Christmas, in respect for my colleagues. But we have to keep moving forward.
And a few days from now, our country will observe a dark and troubling milestone: the one-year anniversary of January 6th, the day that thousands of rioters, urged on by the vicious lies of the disgraced former president, waged a violent assault upon the US Capitol in order to prevent – to prevent – the peaceful transfer of power. This was no peaceful demonstration. This was aimed at undoing our democracy. Thank God they failed.
As I said after the attack, January 6th 2021 will be forever remembered as a day of enduring infamy, a permanent blemish in the story of American Democracy, and the final, bitter act of the worst president, the worst president of modern times.
Over the course of this week, we will pay tribute to the heroes who stepped up that fateful day—our Capitol Police, DC Metro police, our national guard who kept watch for months, and everyone who acted quickly that day to save lives and save our democracy.
But this week, we also acknowledge that the attack of January 6th was not a one-off. It did not materialize out of the blue.
On the contrary, January 6th was a symptom of a much broader illness that has now infected the modern Republican Party: an effort to delegitimize our elections, rooted in Donald Trump’s Big Lie.
And while January 6th was only one day, the Big Lie lives on and has only grown stronger.
The Big Lie lives on in Republican-dominated state legislatures, where at least 19 states have passed 33 new laws that will potentially make it harder, harder for millions to vote in our elections. They say they want to prevent fraud, but they have no evidence of fraud. We all know what they are up to: vitiating, poisoning our elections, the sacred part of the American democracy. And the violence and threats of violence continue.
The Big Lie also lives on through the troubling wave of violent threats that election workers across the country have endured over the course of the last year. All simply for the audacity of having done their job
s to count the votes fairly and without bias.
And if left alone, the Big Lie threatens the very future our Republic.
If people don’t believe in the sanctity of our elections, what is going to happen to this republic? The sanctity of elections, the fairness of elections, the fact that after Election Day we abide by the results has been the cornerstone of our entire democracy. It’s what democracy is all about. It’s what the founding fathers constructed.
Are we going to let that go by the wayside? Are we going to let it be poisoned and vitiated, with huge consequences to the effect of this nation, probably greater than any we have seen since the Civil War?
As we remember January 6th this week, and as we confront state-level voter suppression, we must be clear they are not isolated developments—they are all directly linked to the same anti-democratic poison of the Big Lie.
Let me say that one more time: the insurrection of January 6th, the flurry of new voter restriction laws, and state-level efforts to subvert democracy are not isolated developments but manifestations of the same anti-democratic poison of Donald Trump’s Big Lie.
And they all demand the same solution: the Senate must advance legislation to protect our democracy and safeguard the right to vote.
Over the coming weeks, the Senate will thus consider legislation we can pass to achieve this goal. Democrats for months have tried to bring Republicans to the table, but every single time Republicans used the rules of the Senate to prevent even a debate.
Voting rights in the past was a bipartisan issue—how quickly they forget. Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush supported voting rights. When voting rights extensions came up in this body in the past, they passed by large majorities, bipartisan. The resistance we see from modern day Republicans is a beast of an entirely different nature.
Maybe some of them are scared of Trump, but too many of them see this as a way to win advantage, to get their hard right views enacted, even though the public doesn’t support them. They’re jaundicing our election process and putting barriers in the way of particular people, not all people, of voting: people of color, poor people, people who live in big cities, young people, handicapped people, elderly people.
As I said in my Dear Colleague earlier this week, if Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy, then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Over the course of history, the Senate has debated voting rights many times and done what was necessary to take action. But rarely did our predecessors face the sort of malice that now confronts our democracy from within.
And one final point, I mean, the arguments from the other side, they’re saying federalize the elections. That’s in the Constitution that federal elections can be determined by federal legislation! That’s what some of our great post-Civil War amendments were all about! That’s what the history of voting rights legislation has been about. When state legislatures – for reasons often bigoted and racist – said people couldn’t vote for one reason or another, or stopped them from voting, the Congress stepped in. That’s nothing new.
It’s unbelievable, the arguments [the other side] comes up with. Just totally false. Totally false.
So, as we hold this debate I ask my colleagues to consider this question: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can Democrats permit a situation in which Republicans can pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? And I ask that of my Democratic colleagues, my Democratic colleagues.
This asymmetry cannot hold. If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster to prevent this body from acting, then the Senate must adapt.
The Senate always has. Robert C. Byrd, one of this chamber’s great traditionalists, acknowledged that Senate rules that seemed appropriate in the past “must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.”
Boy, oh, boy, do we have changed circumstances now, with this abandonment of voting rights by the Republican Party and a willingness to let voters from one end of the country to the other be suppressed. As times change and circumstances evolve, the Senate must follow suit of changed circumstances when necessary. So we are going to work towards that goal the coming weeks.
To downplay the threat against our democracy is dangerous. Dangerous. We have seen this in history forever when people try to subvert democracy, when they use threats of violence to do so. If good people don’t stand up, the democracy can wither. We cannot let that happen to our wonderful country.
There is no better way to heal the damage of January 6th than to act so that our constitutional order is preserved for the future.
If we do not act to protect our elections, the horrors January 6th will risk becoming not the exception but the norm. The stakes could not be higher, so we are going to move forward.