Obama: Nix the Filibuster, Pass Voting Rights Legislation

In first op-ed since leaving office, former president calls on Senate to 'do the right thing'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2022 7:26 AM CST
Obama to Senate on Voting Rights: 'Do the Right Thing'
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Smith Center in Las Vegas on Saturday.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

President Biden recently called for altering Senate rules if necessary to remove the obstacle of the filibuster so that voting rights legislation can be passed. Now, a big voice is joining in that same chorus. In what USA Today says is his first op-ed since leaving office in 2017, former President Obama calls on the US Senate to "do the right thing" and "protect our democracy," especially regarding various bills on voting rights, including one proposal named after the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis. What Obama wants to see specifically: an alteration to Senate rules that would nix the filibuster, a procedure that right now prevents a simple majority from bringing legislation to a vote. "The filibuster has no basis in the Constitution," he writes. "Historically, the parliamentary tactic was used sparingly—most notably by Southern senators to block civil rights legislation and prop up Jim Crow."

Obama notes that the democratic front in America has worsened in the two years since he spoke at a memorial service for Lewis, with hundreds of bills across the US being passed to suppress votes, "aggressive" continued attempts at gerrymandering, and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election proliferating to the point that they spurred the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. "No single piece of legislation can guarantee that we'll make progress on every challenge we face as a nation," Obama writes. "But legislation that ensures the right to vote and makes sure every vote is properly counted will give us a better chance of meeting those challenges." That's why the former commander in chief is fully behind Biden's call to tweak Senate rules to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act and advance other voting-rights legislation. "Every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the president's call as well," he writes. Read Obama's full op-ed here. (More Barack Obama stories.)

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