Chairman McGovern Opens Debate on Rule for the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act

Legislation will set national standards for voting, stop partisan gerrymandering, and strengthen the American people’s faith in our democracy

**Video of his remarks is available here**


WASHINGTON, DC — On the House Floor tonight, House Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA) opened debate on the rule for the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. The legislation ensures safe, secure, and accessible elections for all; enhances the ability of every American to cast their ballots freely, equally, and without interference; and sets national standards for voting access to guarantee the right to vote in our nation’s democracy.

Highlights from Chairman McGovern’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are included below. Video is available here.

“M. Speaker, this is about more than a bill…and it’s about more than a process. This is a rescue mission to save American democracy. Because right now, we are in the midst of the most significant period of voter suppression in recent history.”

“All across the country, in service to a lie started by the former president and spread by some in this very body, state legislatures are moving to make it harder for people to cast their ballot.”

“Polling places are being closed so the nearest location is now miles and miles away; early voting times are being slashed during this global pandemic, so it is now too unsafe for some people to vote; purges of the voting rolls…including faulty voter purges…are becoming more likely and more common; and strict voter ID laws are being used to disenfranchise more and more people from casting their ballot.”

“M. Speaker, in one state, it has even become illegal to provide voters waiting in line with food and water!”

“That is why we are here today - because some believe the only way for them to win is to rig an election. This is voter nullification pure and simple. Many on the other side want us to turn a blind eye to all this, just like they turn a blind eye to the insurrection and creeping authoritarianism. Well, I’m not willing to look away.”

“We have a system today that undermines the civil rights of the young, the poor, and those who don’t look like me. It’s a system that has allowed presidents to win elections despite losing the popular vote. It’s a system that has allowed politicians to gerrymander their way into office. And it’s a system that gives the 26 least populous states—representing just 17 percent of the country—the chance to derail legislation that the vast majority of Americans support.”

“That’s the reality of the Senate filibuster, M. Speaker. And make no mistake, despite the claims by some, the filibuster is not sacrosanct. It’s been changed over 161 times in the last five decades. And nowhere—nowhere—does it appear in the Constitution of the United States.”

“Just recently, a bipartisan group of Senators came together to advance a filibuster carve out to raise the debt ceiling. I’m glad they did. That was the right thing to do – a default would have been catastrophic for our economy. Certainly, allowing carve out for voting rights is also the right thing to do.”

“I wish we could get a majority of Republicans to support voting rights. They used to. The Voting Rights Act was reauthorized four times with overwhelming bipartisan support, including in 2006 under the presidency of Republican George W. Bush.”

“But something has changed. This isn’t your grandfather’s Republican Party anymore. It is a party defined by the Big Lie, wild conspiracy theories, and winning elections by trying to suppress the vote…On what planet, M. Speaker, are the people causing the problem going to help solve it?”

“I’d rather be on the side of John Lewis than cast my lot with the Big Lie. I’d rather go it alone to defend our democracy than do nothing together. And yes, I’d rather lose an election than win by rigging the outcome.”

“This fight may not be new but it has never been more urgent. History is watching, M. Speaker. And this moment is bigger than any of us. With the future of our democracy in the balance, I pray that my colleagues join me in saying the same and supporting this rule and the underlying measure.“

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Jan 12, 2022