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January 19, 2022

After Senate Vote to Alter Filibuster Falls Short, King Says It Is Time to “Pick Ourselves Up and Keep Fighting”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) voted to adjust the Senate’s procedures to defend the democratic process and voting rights after a GOP filibuster blocked key voting rights protections. Long reluctant to change the filibuster, Senator King signaled in March 2021 that he would change his thinking if the tactic was used to “simply obstruct” rather than in good faith as a negotiating tool.

Earlier this evening, he spoke on the Senate floor urging this limited reform, but the measure failed to meet the 50 vote threshold. In his full statement below, Senator King reflected on how the new threats to American democracy changed his longstanding opposition to filibuster changes and urging proponents of voting rights legislation to continue pushing forward.

“I have long opposed changes to the filibuster, because I believe that bipartisan work produces better, longer lasting results for the American people,” said Senator King. “I also believe that today’s annoying nuisance for a member of the majority will become tomorrow’s priceless shield when the balance of power shifts and that member finds him or herself in the minority.

“However, the benefits of the filibuster do not outweigh the benefits of a functioning democracy. As partisan state legislatures across the country used simple majorities to enact laws making it harder for Americans to vote, Congress had a responsibility to exercise its explicit Constitutional power to ‘make or alter’ elections laws and protect access to the ballot box. We repeatedly invited Republican leaders to join us at the table to build consensus on a bill that could address these threats. Time and time again, we were rebuffed. Taking a step back here, you realize that state legislatures are passing voting restrictions on a strictly party-line basis, while we in the Senate are forced to defend our constituents’ access to vote while playing by a different set of rules.

“In less than two decades, protecting voting rights has shifted from an obvious, unanimous move to strengthen our democracy to a partisan wedge issue. Here’s an example of how bad it’s become: one of the bills under discussion today, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would reauthorize the Voting Rights Act. The VRA was last reauthorized in 2006 by a vote of 98-0; this time around, only one GOP Senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supported the legislation. This sudden change has, without doubt, weakened the fabric of our nation.

“To be truthful, I’m discouraged right now. With the majority of my colleagues dug in against either changing the filibuster or supporting commonsense voting rights protections, it’s hard to see where we go next. But even as I am saddened that these votes fell short, I know that giving up is not an option. America’s experiment in self-government has endured unimaginable trials throughout its existence, pushing through challenges expected and unforeseen to create a stable democratic system that bucks the historical norms of kings, pharaohs, and czars. Our forefathers would not be deterred from fulfilling the Constitution’s instruction to form a more perfect union. Now it is our turn to pick ourselves up and continue carrying the flame of American democracy forward to the next generation.”

Senator King is committed to increase voter trust and promote access to the ballot for all registered voters. In October 2021 he delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor urging action on voting rights, stating that we are currently “at a hinge of history” that will determine the future of the American experiment in self-government. He has recently made the argument for these bills in op-eds for the Boston Globe and TIME. In addition to the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement ActSenator King cosponsored the For the People Act and Senator Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) Right to Vote Act, which would establish a first-ever statutory right to vote in federal elections — protecting U.S. citizens from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot.   

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