Emotional Booker says he’s ‘never been more worried’ about democracy as he prods Senate on voting rights

Published: Jan. 08, 2022

Ahead of a planned vote next week to protect voting rights, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker marked the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection by pushing his colleagues to act.

Booker said that the Capitol riot by Donald Trump supporters, which included a Confederate flag, was part of a larger effort to stop Blacks and other minorities from voting.

And he said he was concerned because Republican-controlled state legislatures, responding to Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen, have rolled back voting rights, such as limiting early balloting or making it illegal to offer food or water to someone waiting on line to vote.

“There has never been a time in my life where I’ve been more worried about this democracy,” Booker said on the Senate floor, his voice breaking, as he joined other Democrats Thursday in remembering the insurrection.

“Why aren’t we talking about the fact that in states right now, laws are being passed specifically designed to disenfranchise people?”

Booker’s comments previewed an expected debate on voting rights legislation before the Jan. 17 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King holiday .

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that if Republicans blocked the legislation, he would seek to amend the filibuster to let voting rights bills pass by majority vote rather than meet a 60-vote threshold.

“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?” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Friday.

At least 19 states have passed 34 laws redistricting voting access, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

And Trump’s continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“America is a laughingstock stock of the world, and it’s all because of the real insurrection, which took place on Nov. 3,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “Never forget the crime of the 2020 presidential election. Never give up.”

Judges dismissed dozens of lawsuits by Trump and his supporters due to lack of evidence and top federal and state officials, including the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Election Assistance Commission, National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors, called the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

The original 1965 Voting Rights Act was eventually passed over a filibuster led by segregationist Southern Democrats following an incident known as Bloody Sunday when Alabama state troopers wielding billy clubs beat up a group of civil rights marchers at the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Mobile. Among those injured was John Lewis, later a U.S. representative.

After watching scenes of the carnage, a New Jersey lawyer called a local group and volunteered his services, later helping Booker’s parents integrate a Bergen County community.

But in 2013, five Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court justices eviscerated a key section of the law, leading to a spate of voter restrictions enacted by Republican-controlled state legislators.

Since then, voting rights have become a partisan issue. House Republicans who had voted for a 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act including Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., when it passed, 390-33, changed their positions and opposed the bill, now named for Lewis, last August.

Senate Republicans, who voted to renewed the legislation in 2006 when it passed, 98-0, then filibustered the new measure after it passed the House with only Democratic votes.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky recently accused Democrats of trying to ”exploit” the Jan. 6 anniversary “to advance partisan policy goals that long predated this event.”

Booker, the first Black to represent New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, has used his legislative platform to fight efforts to restrict voting.

In his speech Thursday, Booker cited a North Carolina voter-ID law, which Trump embraced, that later was thrown out by federal judges who said it targeted Blacks “with almost surgical precision.”

Booker said that in Georgia in 2020, residents of some minority communities had to wait an average of 51 minutes to vote, while those living in mostly white communities waited an average of six minutes.

“Is that what we mean by equal justice under law? Is that what we mean when we look at our flag and say, ‘Liberty and justice for all’?” Booker said.

“I grew up, I confessed on the Senate floor, with the naive belief that the stories of my father, the stories of my grandparents, were history, that we wouldn’t live in a country where black people are waiting eight, nine times the wait of white people.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-01-09 03:58:44 -0800