CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES ON CNN: "WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO PRESS FORWARD IN THE SPIRIT OF DR. KING"
WASHINGTON, DC – In case you missed it, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to discuss the need for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and end this era of voter suppression once and for all.
VIDEO CLIP OF CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: The right to vote is sacred. The right to vote is special. The right to vote is sacrosanct and central to the integrity of our democracy. There are people who died, lost their lives, shed blood to make sure that Black people and everyone in America could vote. We're not going backward. We're only going to go forward. You better back up off of us.
COOPER: Congressman Jeffries, who also chairs the House Democratic Caucus, joins us now. Congressman, thanks for being with us. Despite all the passion and the concern surrounding this issue, is voting rights legislation dead as it currently stands?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: It's not dead and we have to continue to press forward in the spirit, and out of reverence and respect for the life and legacy of Dr. King with the fierce urgency of now, until we can get the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act over the finish line. You know, Anderson, in a democracy there has to be an equilibrium, a balance between majority rule and minority rights. What we have in the Senate right now is an inversion of this basic principle. We have minority rule and the will of the majority of the American people is being subverted and obstructed when it comes to this sacred, special right to vote. And we cannot rest until we get this situation resolved.
COOPER: But as of right now, it doesn't seem like there are the votes to pass this current iteration, correct?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: As I understand it, there are ongoing conversations with both Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema with respect to both of these important bills. It's important to note that the Freedom to Vote Act is Joe Manchin's voting rights protection legislation. He's allowing Republicans to filibuster his own bill. That doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of us, particularly given the stakes that exist right now. Republicans have decided to adopt voter suppression as an electoral tactic because they've concluded that the only way that the radical right can consistently win elections is to engage in voter suppression. I can't think of something that's more unconscionable and more un-American, and we've got to undo it in the United States Senate.
COOPER: We're hearing about a group of lawmakers, bipartisan, who are looking at the idea of reforming the 1887 Electoral Count Act, a law that lays out the process by which Electoral College votes are certified by Congress. Do you support reform of that act and what would you say to those who argue that that is maybe all that can be done?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: I do support reform of the Electoral Count Act, but I don't think it should substitute for voting rights legislation. We have two challenges right now that we're confronting to our democracy. You've got a voter suppression epidemic that we have to crush and then you also have nullification efforts that are underway by state legislative bodies, where they effectively are trying to set up the opportunity to steal elections. What's ironic here, Anderson, is that Republicans, many of them, not all of them, but many of them want to make it harder to vote and easier to steal an election. I mean, this is an incredible place that we find ourselves in. But in the spirit of Dr. King, who himself confronted enormous obstacles to progress yet persevered through them, will continue to inspire us to make a way out of no way and to eventually, hopefully this week, but if not, eventually overcome.
COOPER: We've seen the President and the Vice President both strongly get behind these voting rights bills in recent weeks. At the same time, you know, many voting rights activists are saying it's too little, too late and that speeches are clearly insufficient at that point. There's clearly a lot of frustration for those who are arguing what you are arguing for. What do you say to those who are frustrated with a lack of results from Democrats?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Well, Democrats do consistently deliver For The People and President Biden has delivered in many different ways. The American Rescue Plan was an incredible step forward early on in his presidency in terms of stabilizing the economy and striking a blow against COVID-19, setting up a strong public health infrastructure to help us get through other variants like delta and omicron. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement is an example of his leadership and will have created millions of good-paying jobs moving forward all across the country. Now, President Biden and Vice President Harris are leaning into voting rights legislation and, importantly, have indicated that we have to reform, if not dismantle, the filibuster. The filibuster is the obstacle to this equilibrium between majority rule and minority rights, and that is one of the reasons why it is a perversion of our democracy, an obstacle to progress and hopefully will be dealt with decisively this week and the senators on the Democratic side can find a way to convince Manchin and Sinema to do just that.
COOPER: Do you believe Democrats in Congress will have the opportunity to pass other parts of its agenda before the midterms, some portion of the Build Back Better plan?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: It's my view that we will be able to move forward with the Build Back Better Act in some substantial way. It's critically important that we continue to create millions of good-paying jobs, that we lower costs for everyday Americans, that we revive the Child Tax Credit, which was a massive tax cut for working families, middle-class families and low-income families, and put them in a strong economic position. We have to sustain that moving forward and I do believe that everybody under the Capitol dome, on the House side and on the Senate side, and certainly President Biden understands the significance of delivering the Build Back Better Act in substantial measure for the American people. I'm very confident that that is going to happen sooner rather than later.
Watch the full interview here.
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