King Family Responds To Failed Voting Rights Vote, Talking Filibuster Reform

King Family on Failed Voting Rights Vote
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Photo: Paul Morigi

Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, and 50 Republican Senators failed to vote to support a talking filibuster to advance the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act — a bill both Democrats support that would help combat the wave of voter suppression bills sweeping states across the nation.

This Senate vote was propelled by a weekend of action, when Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King led over 180 organizations to call for the Senate to legislate, not celebrate, in honor of MLK Day. Thousands of Americans in Phoenix and D.C. turned out and millions more raised their voices to demand the Senate act and reform the filibuster to save our democracy.

Martin Luther King III, Civil rights leader and Chairman of the Drum Major Institute, issued the following statement in response:

"Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin have let down the United States of America. They were given countless opportunities to protect our most sacred franchise, but in the end, they sided with a Jim Crow relic over the voting rights of Black and Brown communities. They ignored the call of millions of Americans, West Virginians, and Arizonans who know that restoring the Voting Rights Act is an imperative for the health of our democracy. Like I said from the Frederick Douglass Bridge on the holiday to honor my father: no bridge will be strong enough to hold the weight of this failure.

"Despite this setback, we are going to keep fighting for voting rights legislation. This fight marks a new chapter in the King legacy and we will not accept failure. We have set extraordinary groundwork for change and the country will not let this fight end. Ending the filibuster is part of the national conversation in a way it’s never been before — people now know the filibuster is not etched in the Constitution, but rather a tool of suppression, and the voting rights secured by my father are under attack.”

Arndrea Waters King, Civil rights leader and President of the Drum Major Institute, issued the following statement in response:

"It is deeply disappointing that a handful of Senators didn’t have the courage to do what is right, and now Black and Brown Americans will pay the price. Today is a setback on the long road to justice but the road continues on. We thank Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer for their perseverance on this issue and for putting the vote on the floor to force Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema to go on the record with their opposition to saving our democracy — history will remember their shameful choice.

"For the Black and Brown organizers who we join in the call for justice, we will keep fighting. For the grandmother in West Virginia who’s been purged from voter rolls, we will keep fighting. For the Native man on a reservation in Arizona who will have to travel 20 miles to vote — even though he doesn’t have access to transportation — we will keep fighting. For the mother who will wait 10 hours to vote in Atlanta with her children by her side and her bag full of water and snacks because it’s illegal to pass out food and water to voters — we will keep fighting.”

Despite this Senate vote, the national fight to end the filibuster has never been stronger. A supermajority (63 percent) of Americans support the Freedom to Vote Act, and a majority (50 percent) of Americans support eliminating the filibuster. 51 percent of Americans state they would be more likely to support eliminating the filibuster if it meant that voting rights legislation would not be passed (Navigator Research).

Over 180 partner organizations joined the Kings’ fight to end the filibuster for voting rights, including NAACP, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The National Urban League, National Action Network, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, SEIU and more. This united opposition to the filibuster has inspired support from moderate Democrats and people across the aisle.

New reports also show Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin will face electoral consequences for this decision. Wednesday, EMILY’s List and NARAL announced they would not support Senator Sinema’s re-election in 2024 without her vote in favor of this reform, adding to the trend of anti-filibuster movement. Officials who were once hesitant to reform the filibuster have recognized the urgency of this moment for voting rights and come on board, including President Biden, former President Obama, Sen. Klobuchar, Sen. Kelly, Sen. Booker, and more.

The King family will continue fighting for an equitable Senate and voting rights for all Americans.

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