WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after 48 senators tried to force a talking filibuster on the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, critical legislation to fend off states’ attempts to rig elections and prevent millions of Americans from voting, but were blocked from moving forward: “Today was a dark day in the U.S. Senate, but it is not the end of the story.
“Every chapter in our nation’s struggle for civil rights has been hard-fought and filled with roadblocks. From the first day of our founding, there has been a disconnect between the amazing ideals of this nation—that all are created equal; that ‘We the People’ should choose the direction for our nation—and the realities. The struggle to win voting rights for women, for Black Americans, and for Native Americans took generations. There were bitter defeats and setbacks along the way. And today, we face another of those moments.
“I don’t blame any American who is frustrated or scared by today’s outcome, or who worries we don’t have time for a setback right now. I feel that way too. We are witnessing a period of profound backlash against multiracial democracy. A huge swath of the Republican Party has decided that they are unable or unwilling to win a fair popular vote among all citizens. Those who have embraced the ‘Big Lie’ are sowing poison across the country, spreading lies about our elections, and passing insidious new laws to limit which Americans can vote and how. This is the existential, democratic battle of our times.
“Today’s vote is obviously a setback. It’s a setback for those who believe that We the People—all of us, no matter what we look like, how old we are, which side of the tracks we live on, or which party we support—are supposed to decide who governs. It’s a setback for those of us who believe the Senate should be able to debate and vote on the big issues facing America. But just because it’s a setback, doesn’t mean it’s the end. We have 48 Senators committed to that vision. We have 48 Senators who recognize that allowing a Republican minority in the Senate to enshrine minority rule in the states is not healing divisions or preserving anybody’s rights—it’s an attack on the beating heart of democracy.
“Today, we have 48 Senators who voted to restore the Senate’s traditional way of conducting debate. Those who argue for extending debate must actually come before the people to make their case, and if they stop debating, we hold a vote on final passage. It’s that simple. The talking filibuster replaces paralysis with an incentive to negotiate. It replaces backroom deals with debate and accountability before the American people. It is the founders’ design for debate in our democracy.
“As much as it hurts, this vote cannot be a reason to give up. It must be a clarion call to redouble our commitment to democracy. So many have given so much blood, sweat, and tears already, and I know we are tired—but we must push forward. As Dr. King said, ‘Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.’ We must continue this struggle, and we will.”