‘We can’t take our democracy for granted’: Obama invokes 6 January insurrection for voting rights bill

‘We have seen once vibrant democracies go into reverse,’ former president says

Chantal Da Silva
Tuesday 22 June 2021 14:30
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Senate Democrats introduce For The People Act to curb voter suppression

Former President Barack Obama has invoked the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol on Monday as proof of why America needs a sweeping voting rights bill making its way to the Senate on Tuesday.

Speaking during a conference call for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee on Monday, Mr Obama said the deadly siege on the US Capitol Building, which claimed five lives, showed that Americans cannot “take our democracy for granted”.

“Around the world, we have seen once vibrant democracies go into reverse, locking in power for a small group of powerful autocrats and business interests and locking out of the political process dissidents and protesters and opposition parties and the voices of ordinary people,” the former president said, according to CNN.

“It is happening in other places around the world and these impulses have crept into the United States,” he continued, adding: “We are not immune from some of these efforts to weaken our democracy.”

The president’s warning came as senators prepared to vote on whether to push HR 1, known as the For the People Act, forward.

The 800-page legislation passed in the House in March, with representatives largely voting along party lines.

The bill’s overarching goal is to make it easier for Americans to vote in elections and to create more transparency around campaign financing.

Democrats have argued that the bill is necessary to stop strict voting laws being propelled forward by Republicans states across the country from preventing voters from casting their ballots. Meanwhile, Republicans have claimed that the bill has been crafted to help Democrats win in future elections.

Senators will decide on Tuesday whether the bill should be raised for an approve-or-deny vote in the future.

With Republicans staunchly opposed to the legislation, however, it is unlikely to be pushed forward.

During the Monday call, Mr Obama warned that “Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the For the People Act from even being debated”.

He said it should already be concerning that “in the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line” some Republican senators have continued to make unfounded claims of “irregularities” in the 2020 election.

“They are suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions on the floor of the Senate,” Mr Obama said. “They don’t even want to talk about voting. And that is not acceptable.”

The former president warned that if “if we have the same kind of shenanigans that brought about January 6th, if we have that for a couple more election cycles ... we’re going to have real problems in terms of democracy long term”.

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