‘I Am Not a Racist’: Tension on the Senate Floor During Voting Bill Debate
Emotions ran high on the Senate floor during a debate on ill-fated voting legislation, which was deemed DOA as President Joe Biden failed to persuade two Democrat holdouts, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (W.VA), to change filibuster rules.
“The majority of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus have changed their minds. I respect that. They have a right to change their minds. I haven’t. I hope they respect that too. I’ve never changed my mind on the filibuster,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.
When asked about his party’s current priorities, Manchin said people are most worried about inflation and the coronavirus. He added that he’d welcome a primary challenge over his filibuster position if he seeks reelection.
“I’ve been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me,” he said.
The legislation is known as the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which combines earlier bills into one measure that would make Election Day a national holiday, ensure access to early voting and mail-in ballots, and enable the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the Senate would vote on a more specific rules change for a “talking filibuster” on this one bill — requiring senators to stand at their desks and exhaust the debate before holding a simple majority vote.
Ahead of the voting, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), a Navy veteran and retired NASA astronaut, announced he would support the limited Schumer plan to pass the voting bill.
“If NASA functioned like the United States Senate, they would never get the rocket off the launchpad,” Kelly tweeted.
Emotions were palpable as the debate began.
Sen. Dick Durbin (R-IL) asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to pause for a question, but he left the chamber without responding.
Durbin said he would’ve asked McConnell: “Does he really believe that there’s no evidence of voter suppression?”
“I am not a racist,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said at one point.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said the debate had declined to a troubling point.
“You’re either a racist or a hypocrite. Really, really? Is that where we are?”