Former President Barack Obama slammed Senate Republicans on Monday for their opposition to a debate over an election reform bill that would expand voting access, calling their stance “not acceptable.”
“They’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions,” the former president said of Republican opposition to the For the People Act.
Obama called the filibuster a “tool for obstruction” and urged Republican senators not to use it to block a key vote on the For the People Act voting rights bill this week.
“Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the For the People Act from even being debated,” Obama said during a tele-town hall with former Attorney General Eric Holder and grassroots activists about the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will put to a procedural vote Tuesday to take up the measure. That motion is not expected to receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and proceed to the bill.
“Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line and many of the same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out a solution on the floor of the Senate,” Obama said.
“That’s not acceptable,” he added.
Obama said the bill isn’t perfect, but he touted several of its provisions, including one that would cut down on partisan gerrymandering. Allowing people in power to manipulate the boundaries of legislative districts had deepened the political divide in the country and made it “so that the incumbents can choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their elected officials,” he said.
The former president also pointed to provisions mandating early voting and increasing transparency on donations, and noted that Democratic senators have said they’re open to compromises. The bill might undergo changes, but “we as a people should all say Senate, Congress, do something.”
“Whatever else we may argue about, the one thing we should agree on the bedrock idea that we as Americans have been taught to take pride in, this is the fact that we’re a democracy,” Obama said.
“The issue of voting rights might not set off alarms for most of us,” but “the violence that occurred in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th should remind us we can’t take our democracy for granted,” he said.