Protesters march on Washington in support of voting rights, filibuster change

Activist groups and unions gathered in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to call for lawmakers to pass voting rights protections and end the filibuster.

Tuesday’s demonstrations, led by the National Council of Negro Women, kicked off a two-day event seeking to push President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to fulfill their promises to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

They also hope to push lawmakers to vote to abolish the filibuster, a Senate tradition allowing unlimited debate that can be deployed to prevent or delay a vote on a measure brought before the chamber.

“We are going to get out in this cold,” Melanie Campbell, head of the public policy advocacy group Black Women’s Roundtable, said Tuesday morning as the groups planned to march from the National Council of Negro Women headquarters to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ben Jealous of The People For The American Way will rally in front of the White House on Wednesday in a continuation of the protests.

The Freedom to Vote Act seeks to expand voting rights at the federal level, including instituting an early voting period of at least 15 days for federal elections and same-day registration in every state.

It was introduced in the Senate in September as a revised version of the For the People Act after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., opposed the prior measure, but was blocked by Republicans in the Senate in October.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the congressman and civil rights activist from Alabama, seeks to strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act that has been weakened by a pair of Supreme Court rulings.

It was passed by the House in August but Republicans blocked it in the Senate earlier this month.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., listed both voting measures as a priority for the chamber to address before the end of the year in a letter to fellow lawmakers on Sunday

“This is too important,” Schumer said of the need to pass the bills despite Republican objections. “Even if it means going at it alone, we will continue to fight for voting rights and work to find an alternative path forward to defend the most fundamental liberty we have as citizens.”

Ending the filibuster could help Democrats overcome Republican roadblocks on the two voting bills and other parts of Biden’s agenda including the Build Back Better social spending bill.

Biden in October said that there was a “real possibility” filibuster rules could change, however, it would require full support from Senate Democrats including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who have opposed the change.

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