WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered remarks on the Senate Floor ahead of a procedural vote to start debate on S.1, the For The People Act.
Senator Heinrich is calling for comprehensive reforms to defend our democracy, reduce the influence of dark money and powerful special interests, and stop the wave of Republican voter suppression happening in states across the country.
Senator Heinrich’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
We are facing the most dangerous and overt threat to our democratic system in generations.
Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon wrongly equated money with speech.
And in the decade since, unaccountable dark money has flooded into our political system.
This broken campaign finance system allows billionaires to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans with no accountability.
This lack of transparency also opens the door for dangerous disinformation campaigns.
After the Supreme Court gutted Article V of the Voting Rights Act in another terrible decision, we have also seen state legislatures across the country take up and pass voting laws designed explicitly to prevent black, brown, and young voters from exercising their right to vote.
These new laws in states like Georgia, Arizona, and Texas are right out of the pre-Voting Rights Act playbook of the Jim Crow South.
Some have called them Jim Crow 2.0, and it’s hard to disagree.
They make it harder to register to vote.
They reduce early voting times and polling locations.
They restrict access to vote-by-mail.
In Georgia, it’s now illegal to hand out water to someone who has been standing in line for hours waiting to vote.
Could anything be more wrongheaded?
My home state of New Mexico is a great example of what it looks like to enhance rather than attack participation in our democracy.
I am incredibly proud of the ways that elections officials in our state have stepped up in recent years to make voting safer, more secure, and at the same time much more accessible for every New Mexican.
And our state has seen greater participation in our elections as a result.
Unfortunately, we are seeing the polar opposite of this approach in our neighboring states.
Just last week, Democratic lawmakers from Texas came to Washington, D.C. to warn us just how dire the situation has become in their state.
Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott and Republican lawmakers in Austin are hell bent on passing sweeping voting restrictions as part of a nakedly discriminatory power grab.
These proposed changes would reduce voting hours, push back the start of Sunday early voting—when many black voters cast their ballots—and eliminate polling locations in larger urban counties.
The goal of this type of legislation is pretty plain to see.
This shameful and transparent attempt to take away Texans’ right to vote—and similar attempts to disenfranchise voters in many other states—should be a wakeup call to every single American.
We should all be able to see that these attacks on voting are taking advantage of and in many cases being driven by our former president’s lies and conspiracy theories about the last election.
Make no mistake, former President Trump’s Big Lie about his loss in the 2020 Election has sown widespread and damaging distrust in our elections.
We should never forget that this same distrust and disinformation fomented a mob of violent insurrectionists that stormed into this very building—the very heart of our democracy—less than six months ago.
Unfortunately, that cat is out of the bag.
I don’t see this widespread public distrust in our elections going away anytime soon.
Especially as long as our former president continues to add more fuel to the fire.
And particularly when Republicans, even Republicans who know that he is lying, continue to follow him down that rabbit hole.
In one of New Mexico’s other neighboring states, in Arizona, there is a “so-called” audit of the votes cast in their largest county.
This bogus audit is being conducted by a private company paid for by secret pro-Trump funders with no effective oversight.
When you outsource non-partisan election work to a firm calling themselves the “Cyber Ninjas,” you know things are off the rails.
All of the distrust in our elections that has been ginned up by our former president is all the more reason for us to come together to pass commonsense reforms that would restore all Americans’ faith in our elections and in our democracy.
The right of every lawful American to vote is just that, a right, and no one – no one should be able to take that away.
The public should have confidence that our leaders are working on their behalf, not in fealty to a class of dark money billionaires.
They deserve transparency, so that they can see who is behind the political ads on their televisions and social media feeds.
Most importantly, they deserve to know that our most fundamentally American right to vote is secure, accessible, and easy to navigate for every single lawful American.
That’s why it is so important for the Senate to take up the For The People Act this week.
This comprehensive legislation addresses all of the critical challenges facing our political systems and our democratic institutions.
The For The People Act would restore transparency, accountability, and strong ethics rules for our elections.
It would stop billionaires from being able to anonymously pour buckets of cash into our elections in an effort to buy them.
It would put an end to partisan gerrymandering and broken election rules that allow Republicans and Democrats alike to rig the system for themselves and for special interests.
And it would modernize voting systems so every American—no matter their race, their political party, or their zip code—can have confidence in their ability to exercise their right to vote.
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate should come together to pass the commonsense election security, voter protections, and campaign finance reforms in the For The People Act.
Each of these provisions on their own have won bipartisan support at the state and local levels.
In a previous less partisan time, these ideas would have earned broad bipartisan support here in Congress.
These are not Democratic or Republican ideas.
They are fundamental reforms that we need to pass in order to restore the essential American idea that each of us has a say in who we elect as our leaders.
The House has already passed the For The People Act earlier this year.
It’s now the Senate’s turn to take up this critical legislation.
Unless we can pass the reforms that are in the For The People Act, we will keep living under a broken status quo where the special interests wield far too much control and state lawmakers can continue to undermine and ignore constitutional rights.
It is outrageous that Senate Republicans, as we just heard from the Minority Leader, are planning to block legislation to restore voting rights and bring much needed transparency and ethics into our elections.
Their refusal to even allow debate on the For The People Act should be seen for what it is.
It is a ringing endorsement of former President Trump’s conspiracy theories and his attacks on our elections and on reality itself.
Refusing to take up the For The People Act will prop up the campaigns that we are seeing in states across the country that strip Americans of our hard-won right to vote.
Mr. President, I want to be clear.
If Senate Republicans are successful later today in using the filibuster to block the Senate from even debating the For The People Act, this cannot be the end of the story.
We simply cannot give up on passing voting rights legislation in this Congress.
Not when our democracy is what is on the line.
We should all remember that the filibuster is a rule, a rule that cannot even be found in our Constitution.
But voting, voting is an American RIGHT.
When I think about this, I remember my former colleague, across the hall from me actually, when I served in the House of Representatives, John Lewis.
It was one of the most humbling experiences in my life to be able to serve in the same chamber as Congressman Lewis.
John Lewis dedicated his entire life to the fight for the right of all Americans to cast their ballots safely and without fear of discrimination.
More than 50 years ago, he and so many others marched and put their lives on the line to call on President Lyndon Johnson and members of Congress from both parties to pass the Voting Rights Act.
Back then, and every time the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized since, senators from both parties have found a way to protect our democracy and preserve the right to vote.
Right now, America is facing down daunting threats to our democratic values here at home.
For the first time since the Civil War, the greatest threats to the Republic are from within.
History will judge all of us based on what we do to defend that fundamental right for all, not some, but all of our fellow Americans.
Mr. President, will we meet this moment?
If we fail to rise to the discrimination baked into these state laws, our failure will cast a long shadow.
I will be proud to cast my vote on the side of democracy.