In an impassioned speech delivered on the Senate floor Tuesday, Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defended voting rights, denounced Republicans’ widespread voter suppression efforts and criticized fellow senators who have cited procedural norms as their reason for being complicit.
During his remarks, Warnock warned of states “where partisan actors and power-hungry politicians have acted along partisan lines to make it harder ― not easier ― for eligible voters to cast a ballot and guarantee that that ballot will actually count.”
Warnock, a first-term legislator and pastor of Georgia’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, called the right to vote “formative and foundational” during his Tuesday morning speech where he addressed GOP-led efforts to curb ballot access following the party’s election losses in 2020. Across the country, more than 300 bills that would make it harder to vote have been introduced by Republican legislators in nearly every state since last November.
“I sincerely believe that what we do or fail to do will have long-lasting and far-reaching implications for the health, viability and vitality of the world’s greatest democracy,” Warnock said.
In his speech, the senator called on Congress to debate and adopt legislation protecting voting rights across the country, particularly in his home state of Georgia, where white Republicans have sought to suppress votes from nonwhite voters that were key to Democrats regaining the Senate and White House last fall.
With Democrats currently carrying a one-vote majority in the Senate, Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have uniformly vowed to block proposals guaranteeing voting rights for all eligible voters, including Democrats’ For The People Act. In the Democratic Party, senators including Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin have dimmed hopes of enacting voting rights legislation without Republican endorsements. Both senators oppose eliminating the filibuster for the sake of defending voting rights, effectively forcing Democrats to get Republican approval for a bill that aims to guard voting rights from Republican attacks.
“Simple request for my colleagues: Let’s do our job,” Warnock said. “Resist the easy route ― the temptation to hide behind Senate procedure, and let’s have a principled conversation in front of the American people about voting rights.”
His words were a direct rebuttal to Republicans and Democrats like Sinema and Manchin, who claim the filibuster ― a political tool routinely used by racist legislators to protect white supremacist laws ― is fundamental to democracy. On Monday, Sinema was widely criticized for an opinion piece published in The Washington Post in which she claimed Americans had “more to lose than gain” by eliminating the filibuster.
“What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to preserve minority rights in the society?” Warnock said.
Back in March, in his first speech before Congress, Warnock called the Republican Party’s widespread voter suppression efforts “Jim Crow in new clothes,” a reference to the racist Jim Crow laws first introduced in the late 19th century.
“I warned, then, that the cords of our democracy were dangerously frayed,” Warnock reflected Tuesday during his call for urgent action.
“Since I gave that speech, things have only gotten worse,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.