SPEECH: Voting Rights Laws

Mr. President, last week, I gave a long, detailed speech on the topic that was at hand last week and is the topic, right now, that we are focusing on here in the U.S. Senate: voting rights and the majority leader's goal this week, as it was last week, to blow up the legislative filibuster.

  I believe it would be the first time in U.S. history that a majority leader would actually seek to do this--to blow up the legislative filibuster--which, in and of itself, says a lot. This would, of course, change the Senate and change the country forever. There will be a lot of speeches on that. There will be many more speeches today, tomorrow, and Thursday on these important topics. 

  Now, the President of the United States weighed in on these two topics--the filibuster and voting rights--in Georgia, in a speech last week that is already going down as an infamous speech by a President of the United States. Let's just say it really didn't go very well, the President's speech. 

  I ask all Americans to take a look at it. It is quite disturbing for a whole host of reasons. The President's speech was almost universally panned, on the left even, on the right, and in the center. I have not seen one U.S. Senator come down on the floor, this week, to defend it. It will be interesting, as we debate these issues, if anyone does, but I doubt there will be, and there are many reasons for this.

  As a speech by a President, it was remarkably divisive--in essence, calling every Senator, Democrat or Republican, who doesn't agree with him a racist and a traitor. Read the speech. It was historically absurd--invoking the sacrifices of the Civil War and heroes like Abraham Lincoln and villains like Jefferson Davis to present-day circumstances. It was profoundly un-Presidential, as Senator McConnell stated, rhetoric, completely unbecoming of a President of the United States, and in an attempt to get Senators, especially Democrat Senators, to vote the way in which President Biden wants them to vote, it appears to have been a monumental failure. Now, I wonder why. Well, of course, here is why.

  Calling someone a racist and a traitor is not the normal, logical route to try to persuade one to come over to your side--neither is claiming that Republican Senators, Republican legislators, States, and Republican State voting laws are so-called Jim Crow 2.0, when your very own State's laws, in terms of voting, are some of the most restrictive in the country. This is a narrative, I hope, our friends in the media will keep an eye on during the debates this week.

  What am I talking about?

  Well, first and foremost, I am talking about Majority Leader Schumer and Joe Biden and their States, New York and Delaware, which have some of the most restrictive voting laws in America. Let me repeat that. Some of the most restrictive voting laws in America come from the majority leader's State and the President of the United States' State. Yet listen to their rhetoric. Listen to their rhetoric: Republicans and Republican States are ``Jim Crow 2.0.''

  I was on the floor last week, talking in particular detail about my State's laws. We are all different States here, but I know my State's laws. I know them well as they relate to voting rights. Here is one thing I said last week: On some of the most critical issues, in terms of voting rights legislation--early in-person voting, automatic voter registration, and this chart here of no-excuse absentee voting--the Republican State of Alaska, the great State of Alaska, has voting laws that are significantly more expansive than the laws of New York, than the laws of Delaware, than the laws of Connecticut, than the laws of Massachusetts, than the laws of New Hampshire. It is a long list, a long list. You can see why Senators like me--my constituents, in particular--find it more than just a little bit annoying when you have these smug arguments of Republican States being Jim Crow 2.0.

  Let me give you another particular one as it relates to New York, the majority leader's home State. 

  My State has no-excuse absentee voting. We have had that for many, many years--many years. Now, the State of New York just had a statewide referendum to have same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting to meet the high standards that we have in Alaska. The people of

New York recently rejected that. I don't know why. I am not from New York. I am sure they had what they thought were good reasons to do that, but if the majority leader keeps coming down and calling the Republican States that restrict voting Jim Crow 2.0, is he going to go to Times Square and call his own constituents Jim Crow 2.0, relative to my great State--because they just rejected doing this, restricting voting rights--according to the logic of the majority leader and the

President of the United States? 

  There is something really wrong here on these arguments and it is not just New York and it is not just my making these arguments about where other States are. Again, my argument here is not to say: Well, everybody should be like Alaska. In the Constitution, the Founders gave the States the fundamental right and obligation and responsibility to design their States' laws in terms of voting. What is really difficult to swallow is that so many of the arguments we are going to hear this week and that we heard last week and that we heard from the President of the United States come from elected officials--U.S. Senators and the President, who is a former Senator--who come from States that have some of the most least restrictive voting laws in the country.

  Again, it is not just me making this argument. This is an article I submitted for the Record, last week, from The Atlantic magazine--not a Republican mouthpiece by any measure. I am going to read extensively from this article, which came out last year, because it really makes the point I am trying to make.

       Biden has assailed Georgia's new voting law as an atrocity akin to ``Jim Crow in the 21st century'' for the impact it could have on Black citizens. But even once the GOP-passed measure takes effect, Georgia citizens will have far more opportunities to vote before Election Day than their counterparts in the president's home state, where one in three residents is Black or Latino. To Republicans, Biden's criticism of the Georgia law smacks of hypocrisy. ``They have a point,'' says Dwayne Bensing, a voting-rights advocate with Delaware's ACLU affiliate. ``The state is playing catch-up--

  The State of Delaware--in a lot of ways.'' 

  The article goes on:

       Delaware isn't an anomaly among Democratic strongholds, and its example presents the president's party with an uncomfortable reminder: Although Democrats like to call out Republicans for trying to suppress voting, the states they control in the Northeast make casting a ballot more difficult than anywhere else. 

  I am going to read that again. I am going to read that again because it is an issue that no one is talking about, and it really smacks of hypocrisy when I see some of my colleagues down here making these great arguments about Jim Crow 2.0 in Republican States. 

  Here it is again, from The Atlantic: 

       Delaware isn't an anomaly among Democrat strongholds--Democratic State strongholds-- and its example presents the president's party with an uncomfortable reminder. Although Democrats like to call out Republicans for trying to suppress voting, the states they control in the Northeast make casting a ballot more difficult than anywhere else. 

  Then the article goes on to say: 

       Connecticut has no early voting at all-- 

  Holy cow, my State has early voting. We have had it for years--and New York's onerous rules force voters to change their registration months in advance if they want to participate in a party primary. 

  And, by the way, New York just rejected what Alaska has. Jim Crow 2.0 in New York? Who knows? Maybe, according to the President's logic.

  The article goes on:

       In Rhode Island, Democrats enacted a decade ago the kind of photo-ID law that the [Democratic] party has labeled ``racist'' when drafted by Republicans.

  Hmm, a little bit of hypocrisy there.

  The article goes on:

       [T]he State [Rhode Island] also requires voters to get the signatures of not one but two witnesses when casting an absentee ballot (only Alabama and North Carolina are similarly strict). 

  The article goes on:

       According to a new analysis released this week by the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York rank in the bottom third of states in their access to early and mail-in balloting. 

  And, as I just said, New York just rejected it again. I really wonder if the majority leader is going to come down and call his citizens Jim Crow 2.0. 

  This is a very important issue, and here is the bottom line: Before any of my Democratic colleagues come to the floor this week with their insults, with their smug, offensive, inaccurate arguments about Jim Crow 2.0 racist traders, mimicking the President of the United States last week in Georgia, I want my colleagues to come and answer this simple question--a very simple question: Why should we listen to you? Why should any American take you seriously, when so many of you come from States with the most restrictive voting laws in America?

  I wonder if any of my colleagues are going to come down to the floor, particularly those like the majority leader, who love to rant about Jim Crow 2.0 when their States are leading the charge in America on restrictive voting.

  I yield the floor.