Newswire : Sen. Schumer says Senate will vote on changes to filibuster by MLK Day

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The U.S. Senate will vote by January 17 on whether the chamber will adopt new rules to circumvent the draconian filibuster to enable voting rights and social justice bills, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Monday, January 3.
“The Senate was designed to protect the political rights of the minority in the chamber, through the promise of debate and the opportunity to amend. But over the years, those rights have been warped and contorted to obstruct and embarrass the will of the majority – something our Founders explicitly opposed,”  Senator Schumer wrote in a letter to colleagues.
“The constitution specified what measures demanded a supermajority – including impeachment or the ratification of treaties. But they explicitly rejected supermajority requirements for legislation, having learned firsthand of such a requirement’s defects under the Articles of Confederation,” he continued.
Although the Senate is evenly split with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Sen. Schumer’s party controls the majority, with Vice President Kamala Harris positioned to cast any tie-breaking vote.
Still, a significant hurdle remains in the senator’s own party. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has remained steadfast in opposition to any changes to the filibuster, a centuries-old rule rooted in racism.
Sen. Manchin has shot down a swath of his party’s agenda, making it difficult for President Joe Biden and others to fulfill campaign promises to faithful voters, particularly in the African American community.
Recent history showed that when Republicans controlled the Senate, they bent tradition and rules to push through the party’s agenda, including two controversial Supreme Court nominations.
With GOP-led voter suppression laws in states across the country and the continued police killings of unarmed African Americans, many have pushed for legislation like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the George Floyd Justice and Policing bill.
Both measures would supersede laws already on the books and make it easier for people of color to vote, and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.
“The weaponization of rules once meant to short-circuit obstruction have been hijacked to guarantee obstruction. We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? We must adapt,” Sen. Schumer demanded.
“The Senate must evolve like it has many times before. The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history.”
Sen. Schumer continued:
“The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy. We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”

President Biden signs Juneteenth Holiday into law

 Nancy Pelosi with Congressional Black Caucus members at signing

By Stacy M.Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Beginning on Friday, June 18, federal employees enjoyed the country’s 12th – and perhaps most significant – paid holiday. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a signing ceremony, officially marking Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Because Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, workers are enjoying the new holiday one day early. “Black history is American history, and I am proud to stand alongside President Biden and my fellow congressional colleagues in reaffirming that sacred principle,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) stated. “While we rightfully celebrate this momentous moment today, the Congressional Black Caucus recognizes that the work to build a brighter tomorrow for Black Americans is far from over. ‘Our Power, Our Message’ remains the same: equity, equality, and justice for all people.” Before attending the White House signing ceremony, Congresswoman Beatty witnessed the bill’s engrossment while flanked by CBC members and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. President Biden and Vice President Harris had made it a mission of their administration to undo as much systemic racism and defeat White supremacy. With a diverse cabinet and staff, and policies that aim to level the playing field for African Americans and other people of color, the administration has worked diligently in living up to its mission. Juneteenth was established on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Union soldiers – led by General Gordon Granger – arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War was over and all previously enslaved people were free. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 to free enslaved people in Confederate states. However, it wasn’t until nearly three years later that news of the proclamation reached Black people in Texas. The fight to formally recognize Juneteenth has been a decades-long effort culminating in the broad bipartisan passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. Before the U.S. House of Representatives’ historic vote, Congresswoman Beatty called on her colleagues to support the measure. “You can’t change the future if you can’t acknowledge the past,” she proclaimed. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, applauded signage of the bill. However, Congresswoman Waters said recognition comes 156 years late. “While this is certainly welcomed, it comes 156 years late, and after legislation to protect voting rights and address police abuse sits idle because of Republican Senators who refuse to understand the need to protect our communities and our right to participate in this democracy,” the congresswoman asserted. “To put this moment into perspective, the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday happened in 1986, and we are still fighting for our civil rights,” she stated. Congresswoman Waters continued: “We are still waiting for Senate passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. We are still waiting for lynching to be classified as a federal hate crime. We are still waiting for the terrorists who destroyed Black Wall Street during the Tulsa Race Massacre to be held accountable, and we are still waiting for Black history to be accurately taught in our schools.” The congresswoman insisted further that “as we celebrate the passage of this legislation, let us be clear that we will not be distracted or appeased.” “We will not simply accept Juneteenth as a federal holiday in exchange for real action that honors our history and our place in this country and moves us closer to achieving justice,” Congresswoman Waters remarked. She said she fully expects her colleagues to join her urgent calls for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Senate passage of the For the People Act. “In the final analysis, it will be shown that platitudes and niceties are one thing but having the courage and taking real action on this issue is another,” Congresswoman Waters demanded. “Let us honor this day by working toward a nation in which Black lives and Black votes are protected and respected.”