Jul 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Warnock vows voter protections

Sen. Raphael Warnock is seen speaking.
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Photo: Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Raphael Warnock tells Axios he won't let the Senate's fixation on passing a pair of infrastructure bills prevent it from also protecting the voting system that narrowly allowed him to win his new job.

What they're saying: "We can walk and chew gum at the same time," the Georgia Democrat said. "Voting rights is bigger than the filibuster. And shame on us if we're more committed to a Senate rule (preserving it) than we are to the principles of democracy."

  • "I am not going to allow (voting rights) to get pushed aside," the freshman said.
  • President Biden was seen walking with Warnock, arm on his shoulder, as he concluded a visit to the Senate Democratic lunch at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

Warnock's not alone on either front.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he and several of his colleagues "feel like we're on a mission after Jan. 6."
  • "We don't view this as just like any other issue. We view this as like, 'I will support and defend the Constitution,'" he said.
  • He reiterated he thinks the only way they'll be successful in passing voting rights legislation is by finding some sort of workaround to the filibuster: “It just strikes me as unlikely that we'll get their help in trying to protect the right to vote."

Between the lines: Democrats set the bar far too high with the "For the People Act," which was always too ambitious to have a real shot at passing. Now, those who care about it are desperately trying to keep the issue relevant as it takes a backseat to infrastructure.

  • The problem is — and like most things in Congress — the more time that passes the less political will there is to do anything.
  • Texas lawmakers flew to Washington and held a series of news conferences — including another Wednesday — about their effort to block the Republican-controlled legislature in their state from passing a voting reform bill.
  • Biden also delivered a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday lambasting efforts to curb voting rights.

The big picture: The concern voiced by Warnock, Kaine and other Democrats is rooted in the jam-packed agenda that senators confront through the end of the year.

  • Leaders see August recess as a deadline to ensure their highest priority agenda items see progress.
  • As of now, infrastructure is dominating this period, and police reform — if negotiators can produce legislative text — sounds like the closest second.
  • Once the Senate returns in September, it will have to deal with revising the debt limit and extending government funding.

Be smart: That leaves little time to haggle over other massive legislation, with preserving or restoring voting rights potentially left out of the discussion.

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