Chuck Schumer condemned Donald Trump’s persistent “stolen election” narrative and its invasive influence in Republican-dominated state legislatures as the Democratic Senate Majority Leader challenged his GOP colleagues to allow a debate over a sweeping voting rights bill.
“How despicable a man is Donald Trump?” Mr Schumer said. “He lost an election legitimately. He can’t face that, that it was his failure, and he creates a lie, a big lie, and wins so many people over to that lie with the help of news media and other news commentators who are lying as well, and they know it.”
Those “despicable lies” have “lit a fire beneath Republican state legislatures” that have launched one of the largest voter suppression efforts “in at least 80 years,” he added.
The New York senator – facing unanimous Republican resistance against the White House-backed For The People Act – said that the Senate will vote on 22 June to begin debate on the bill, though he made it clear that Democrats want to put Republicans on record over whether they even want to have a debate about voting rights.
“It’s not a vote on any particular policy,” he said. “Not a vote on this bill or that bill. It’s a vote on whether the Senate should simply debate voting rights.”
Republican Senators have flatly rejected the bill, which has widespread bipartisan support among American voters, while accusing Democrats of trying to rig future elections by expanding voting access.
The bill proposes automatic voter registration, mandating at least 15 consecutive days of early voting, lifting restrictions on mail-in voting, ending partisan gerrymandering, and putting in place several campaign finance and ethics measures that expose “dark money” backers.
Democrats passed the measure in the House of Representatives in March.
Republican lawmakers in nearly every state filed nearly 400 bills in 2021 to roll back vote-by-mail options, impose strict voter ID requirements, cut back on early voting hours and put in place other obstacles that would make it more difficult, not easier, to vote.
Of those measures, at least 14 states have enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the ballot, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.
In his remarks on the Senate floor on Monday, Senator Schumer also brought attention to “sinister” parallel efforts among Republican state lawmakers to “give more power to themselves and other partisan bodies to undermine, override and neuter” elections laws and “actively” remove the barriers that prevented Mr Trump from overturning millions of Americans’ votes, he said.
GOP lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give themselves more authority over the electoral process, according to the States United Democracy Center. At least 24 of those bills have been signed into law in 14 states.
Senate Republicans have also rejected a “compromise” voting rights bill from moderate Democrat Joe Manchin, who has opposed both the For The People Act and reforming a filibuster that prevents a simple majority – which Democrats hold in an evenly divided Senate – from passing critical items on their agenda.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also rejects a restoration of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 civil rights measure that the US Supreme Court gutted in 2013, allowing states to enact election policies without federal reviews despite their histories of discrimination.
“We certainly hope” Democrats will be “aligned” in a united front to begin debate on the For The People Act on Tuesday, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“It’s important to remember this has been a 60-year battle to make voting more accessible, more available, to Americans across the country,” she said. “This will be a fight of his presidency.”
Last month, Senate Republicans’ first successful legislative filibuster in the current Congress blocked the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot and its aftermath.