"Democrats have to make the fundamental choice: Are they going to protect the filibuster or are they going to protect voting rights?"
Warning that the GOP's recent obstruction and attacks on voting rights have ushered in a "perilous new moment for our democracy," a coalition of more than 100 progressive advocacy groups demanded Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Democratic caucus immediately abolish the legislative filibuster.
Get The Latest By Email
"We have moved past hypotheticals," the groups wrote in a letter to Schumer (D-N.Y.), referring to the Senate GOP's decision last week to filibuster a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
"Democrats have to make the fundamental choice. Are they going to protect the filibuster or are they going to protect voting rights?"
—Eli Zupnick, Fix Our Senate
"In the face of Republicans' inability and unwillingness to defend our democracy, it is clearer than ever that the filibuster needs to be eliminated," the coalition continued. "We cannot allow the filibuster to stand in the way of progress or imperil the health of our democracy."
Signed by Fix Our Senate, Common Cause, Greenpeace USA, and 100 other organizations, the letter comes just weeks before the Senate is expected to vote on the For the People Act, an ambitious voting rights expansion bill that stands no chance of passage as long as the 60-vote filibuster remains in place.
The letter uses Schumer's own words to emphasize the urgency of approving the For the People Act, which—according to the Brennan Center for Justice—would negate virtually all of the hundreds of voter suppression bills that Republicans have introduced and passed at the state level in recent months.
"We are witnessing the 'greatest contraction of voting rights since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow,' as Republican legislatures across America attack voting rights and play partisan games with their election laws," the letter reads, quoting from a tweet Schumer posted last month. "Passing S.1, the For the People Act, is essential in light of these attacks on Americans' fundamental voting and civil rights."
But the majority leader has yet to explicitly endorse abolishing the filibuster as two conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus—Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—continue to openly defend the 60-vote rule.
Eliminating or weakening the filibuster requires a simple-majority vote, meaning Senate Democrats would need to win over Manchin, Sinema, and less vocal filibuster supporters in the caucus. If the filibuster is left in place, Senate Democrats face the even more difficult task of convincing at least 10 of their Republican counterparts to support the For the People Act.
Eli Zupnick, a spokesperson for Fix Our Senate, told NBC News Thursday that the GOP's assault on democracy "is truly a five-alarm fire."
"Democrats have to make the fundamental choice," said Zupnick. "Are they going to protect the filibuster or are they going to protect voting rights?"
Below is the progressive coalition's full letter and the list of signatories:
Majority Leader Schumer,
Thank you for your strong leadership and continued dedication to making progress on essential priorities for the American people and for our democracy in the face of partisan obstruction.
We have moved past hypotheticals and entered a perilous new moment for our democracy. Senate Republicans' decision to block legislation establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection is a shameful abdication of their duties to our country. As Senator Joe Manchin said, "So disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country." That Republicans could not even support a bipartisan investigation into a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol reflects dangerously misplaced priorities: they have chosen party over country, obstruction over progress, and Trump over democracy.
In the face of Republicans' inability and unwillingness to defend our democracy, it is clearer than ever that the filibuster needs to be eliminated. As Senator Brian Schatz stated, "filibustering a bipartisan Commission regarding the January 6 insurrection is a three dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics."
Meanwhile, we are witnessing the "greatest contraction of voting rights since the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow," as Republican legislatures across America attack voting rights and play partisan games with their election laws.
Passing S.1, the For the People Act, is essential in light of these attacks on Americans' fundamental voting and civil rights. Yet Senate Minority Leader McConnell has called blocking the For the People Act his "top priority" and is committed to using the filibuster as a weapon to keep our democracy rigged.
We cannot allow the filibuster to stand in the way of progress or imperil the health of our democracy. As columnist E.J. Dionne noted, "No amount of cajoling, compromising, begging, pleading, or standing-on-your-head-and-holding-your-breath will change this... you can defend voting rights or you can defend the filibuster. You can't do both."
Investigating an insurrection and protecting voting rights should not be controversial or partisan—and they should not be issues that a minority of senators are allowed to block.
We call on you and the Senate Democratic caucus to eliminate the filibuster as a weapon that Sen. McConnell can use to block efforts to defend and strengthen our democracy and make our government work for the American people.
Fix Our Senate
Battle Born Collective
People For the American Way
Stand Up America
Working Families Party
350 Butte County
Alliance for Youth Action
American Family Voices
Athens County's Future Action Network (OH)
Be A Hero
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Blue Wave Postcard Movement
Brave New Films
Broward for Progress
Businesses for a Livable Climate
CA Businesses for a Livable Climate
Call to Action Colorado
Can’t Stop! Won't Stop Consulting
Center for International Policy
Center For law And Social Justice at Medgar Evers College
Center for Popular Democracy Action
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Clean Elections Texas
Climate Hawks Vote
CO Businesses for a Livable Climate
Colorado Small Business Coalition
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Conejo Climate Coalition
Democracy North Carolina
Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance
Equal Justice Society
Faith in Public Life Action Fund
Fix Democracy First
Free Speech For People
Friends of the Earth
Glen Echo Heights Mobilization
Impulse Group DC
Indivisible Georgia Coalition
Indivisible Northern Nevada
International Indigenous Youth Council, Los Angeles
Mainers for Accountable leadership
March For Our Lives
Michiganders for Fair and Transparent Elections
Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action
National Immigration Law Center
National Organization for Women
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
New American Leaders Action Fund
North Range Concerned Citizens
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
PEER: Suffolk County
People's Parity Project
Progressive Democrats of America-Virginia
Progressive Turnout Project
Rapid Shift Network
RepresentUs New Mexico
Secure Elections Network
Social Eco Education (SEE-LA)
Social Security Works
Southern Christian Coalition
Spirit of the Sun
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Take Back the Court
The Workers Circle
True Blue New York
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unite North Metro Denver
Wall of Women
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
Working Families Party WV
WV Citizen Action Group
This article originally appeared on Common Dreams