Voting Rights Act

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 11, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, considering the way our Democratic friends talk about the state of voting rights in America, it is easy to see why some people have expressed concerns because if you took them at face value, you might be very worried about the state of voting rights in our country, but there is more to the story than that, which I will hope to explain here in the next few minutes.

For example, when it comes to the alarmism about voting rights, look no further than the Democratic majority whip, Senator Durbin from Illinois, who said there is an ``insidious effort to suppress the rights of voters of color.''

Senator Schumer, the majority leader, Senator from New York, has said the right to vote is ``under attack in ways we have not seen in generations.''

President Biden himself has said there is a ``21st century Jim Crow assault'' on the right to vote.

If you were to take these at face value and accept them, obviously, you would be very concerned about the state of voting rights.

But there is more to the story, as I said. If you just listen to these statements, you would think that the States--the 50 States--had just imposed literacy tests on voting. You would think the disgusting and subjective determinations of ``good moral character'' that existed before the civil rights movement had somehow sprung back to life. You might even wonder if the Supreme Court of the United States has struck down the Voting Rights Act itself.

(Mr. KELLY assumed the Chair.)

Obviously, none of these things are true. There is simply no concerted effort to attempt to prevent voters of color or any eligible voters from casting their ballots.

The Voting Rights Act--one of the most important pieces of legislation in our Nation's history--is alive and well. I think the Voting Rights Act has done more to change our country for the better than any other piece of legislation that I can think of.

So, to be frank, the facts simply don't support our Democratic colleagues' alarming rhetoric about the state of voting in America. This narrative of widespread voter suppression is nothing more than a scare tactic to achieve a political outcome.

Our colleagues across the aisle have introduced many different versions of their Federal takeover of State elections bill, but the justification seems to always change. First they said it was a matter of election security; then of voter confidence; and then and now, a way to remove obstacles that prevented people from voting. Today, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle claim that this legislation is necessary because the States have passed new laws that restrict voting access. So let's just take a look at what some of those laws entail.

One of those laws in my State of Texas, where the goal is pretty simple, which is to make voting easier and to make it harder to cheat-- Texas already offers 2 weeks of early voting in person, and the new law didn't make any changes in that. For 2 weeks, you can show up and vote in person before election day--hardly a restriction on people's access to the ballot.

This law did, in addition to making sure that people had 2 weeks to vote in person early, extend voting hours in more than 60 different Texas counties and clarify that voters who were in line at the time the polls closed would still be able to cast their ballot. It doesn't sound like voter suppression to me.

But the law also took some measures to reduce opportunities for fraud or mischief. Texas voting systems must now be tested before an election to ensure there are no technical difficulties. I am sure all of us are familiar with the occasional problem with voting machines, technical difficulties that need to be fixed to make sure it counts each legitimate vote. And we did make sure that voting rolls reflected only qualified voters. In other words, voters who passed away were removed from the voting rolls.

My State, like others, has clarified that the temporary, pandemic- related measures were not intended to be permanent. We did take some extraordinary precautions in the midst of COVID-19 to make sure people had access to the ballot. But these are hardly--restoration of the status quo before COVID-19 is hardly an example of voter repression.

I mentioned Texas and its expansive right to cast your ballot in person and to make sure everybody in line when the polls close could still cast their ballot.

Another State that has come under fire is Georgia. As a matter of fact, the Attorney General of the United States has sued Texas and Florida and Georgia under the Voting Rights Act. And, of course, President Biden is highlighting the Georgia laws because he is visiting today doing what I have never seen a President do before, and that is, villainize a State's new voting law, which, to me, is a bizarre thing for a sitting President to do, to travel to a State for the purpose of villainizing that State's law.

I doubt he will mention the fact that Georgia actually extended early voting to 17 days. That is not an example of voter suppression, of trying to restrict people's access to the ballot. As a matter of fact, that is much more generous than what President Biden's home State of Delaware has offered in terms of early access to the ballot.

So these clearly are not examples of Jim Crow voter suppression. These are commonsense measures designed to encourage people's confidence in the integrity of the voting systems and to make sure that they are both accessible and secure. These efforts should not be villainized; they should be applauded. They shouldn't be twisted beyond recognition, trying to manipulate the facts in order to achieve a political outcome.

If these State voting laws, then, are not designed to restrict access to the ballot, you might wonder whether there was a preexisting problem. So let's have a look.

Did voters actually have a problem casting their ballot during the last election? Well, following the 2020 election, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll of the voting experience, and it found that the vast majority of voters, 94 percent--94 percent--said that voting was easy. I don't think you could get 94 percent of people to agree that the Earth is round anymore, but here we have 94 percent of the voters who voted with ease in 2020. This is a stark contrast with the claimed assault on voting rights that we have heard so much about from our colleagues on the left.

Despite what the radical left might lead you to believe, there is no nationwide assault on voting rights. If there were, every person in this building would be lined up to defend the right to vote, not just Democrats. This is a manufactured crisis designed to achieve a political outcome.

There are plenty of safeguards already in place to prevent discriminatory voting laws from taking effect, the most important of which, as I have already said, is the Voting Rights Act. Because of this legislation, the Justice Department has the authority to take action against any State, any political entity that discriminates on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language-minority group. This has been the case for half a century, and no one--no one--wants to weaken or eliminate those protections.

Unfortunately, some of our colleagues on the left have misrepresented the picture of voting rights in America to justify this partisan power grab. The legislation they have introduced does more to enhance their own power than it does to address voting rights. These bills aren't about supporting disenfranchised voters or fighting voter suppression because, as we know, there is no nationwide assault on the right to vote, notwithstanding what some have claimed. This is simply about enhancing the political power of the Democratic Party. They want to seize States' constitutional authority to manage their own elections and use it for their own benefit.

That is one of the most curious things about this debate that we are hearing from some of our Democratic colleagues. They want to actually vote for a nationwide, one-size-fits-all standard, to the detriment of their own States' voting laws.

It is pretty strange to come here representing a State--let's say I was in the shoes of the Democrats. If I were to come here to say ``Well, my State has passed voting laws. I represent my State, but I want the Federal Government to take over the voting laws and to suppress and supersede the voting laws in my State''--that is what our Democratic colleagues are asking for.

President Biden, apparently, rather than changing the voting laws in his home State of Delaware, wants the Federal Government to create a one-size-fits-all answer to voting rights in America--again, something that is inconsistent with the Constitution and makes no sense at all.

Well, to make matters even worse, some of our colleagues are even advocating blowing up the Senate in order to achieve their goals because they know they don't have 60 votes in order to close off debate.

Now, the 60-vote requirement is the subject of a lot of controversy, but, frankly, it makes good common sense. In a country as big and diverse as America, do you really want to have a partisan majority of 51 writing the laws that affect 330 million people, only to have, after the next election, the next majority undo those or change them in some other way? Wouldn't you want a mechanism that forces us to do what we might consider to be a little unnatural, which is actually to build consensus and build bipartisanship to make sure that the laws we pass are not only adequately debated and thought out, but they could endure beyond the next election because they enjoyed the support of bipartisan majorities?

That is what the 60-vote cloture requirement is really about. It is about making sure that purely partisan outcomes don't succeed and forcing us to do what I believe is in the best interest of the American people, which is force us to work together to achieve bipartisan consensus.

The election takeover bill may be the first one our Democratic colleagues try to pass if they eliminate or weaken the filibuster, but it won't be the last. This isn't going to be a one-and-done exercise. Anybody who says you can carve out voting laws and everything else will remain the same is just kidding themselves and the American people. If the Democrats created a carve-out for election-related bills, there would be nothing--nothing--stopping them from resurrecting early versions of the election takeover bill and passing them on a completely partisan basis.

Previous versions of this bill would have turned the historically bipartisan Federal Election Commission into a partisan body. They would have mandated ballot harvesting and seized States' constitutional authority to draw their own congressional districts. These are the types of radical measures that we could see under what our colleagues call a modest carve-out.

If our Democrat colleagues eliminated the bipartisan 60-vote requirement, the floodgates of partisan legislation would surely open. Last year, our colleagues tried to pass legislation that exploits the cause of pay fairness to send a wave of business to trial lawyers. They pushed for another bill that would impose crushing legal penalties on those who refuse to comply with woke social norms.

If the filibuster--the 60-vote bipartisan filibuster--were eliminated, Republicans would have no way of stopping these bills from becoming law. And it doesn't stop there. The threat doesn't stop there.

Think of the most controversial bills that our Democratic colleagues have proposed. They could add new States to the Union--DC statehood, Puerto Rican statehood. They could pack the Supreme Court of the United States with liberal Justices. They could pass laws that infringe on the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms, or legalize abortion up until the time a baby is delivered in the third trimester. They could impose job-killing taxes and kick-start the Green New Deal.

So what is at stake here this week is far more than the fate of one or two bills. Our colleagues are proposing to put a thumb on the scale to benefit the Democratic Party.

If the filibuster, the bipartisan 60-vote requirement, is eliminated, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will have unchecked power to write the laws affecting 330 million Americans. We know they are already willing to manufacture a voting rights crisis to increase their own power. If they are willing to do that, what aren't they willing to do? I know I am not alone in saying I hope we never find out.

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Mr. CORNYN. I have yielded the floor.

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Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, would the Senator yield for a question?

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Mr. CORNYN. Would you give me an example of one of the laws passed in Georgia or in Texas since the 2020 election which you believe suppresses the right to vote.

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Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I have one more question to clarify your response.

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Mr. CORNYN. Is the Senator suggesting that ballot harvesting should be required in all 50 States? That is the ability of a partisan or a participant in a political election to go around to nursing homes or to other vulnerable populations and collect ballots and turn them in.

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