US senators have failed to tackle key issues such as voting rights, according to a coalition of civil rights groups who released a report Wednesday grading lawmakers in the chamber on their voting record.
The report comes a week after Senate Republicans blocked the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act from advancing in the chamber and as Democrats negotiate over President Joe Biden’s social spending bill.
The grades — tabulated by the National Urban League, NAACP, National Action Network and other groups — were based on senators’ votes on the American Rescue Plan Act, the John R. Lewis Voting the Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. Additionally, the groups were critical of the filibuster, saying, “This once rare procedure has been normalized into a tool to effectively stymie major legislation, including voting rights protection bills.”
A rating of an “A”, “F” or “I” for incomplete was given depending on how the senator voted or their stance on changing the filibuster. All Republicans received an “F,” and Democrats along with Independents received either an “A” or “incomplete.”
Marc Morial, National Urban League president and CEO, told CNN the groups are using the scorecard to send a message “that all roads lead to voting” and to sound the alarm that voter suppression is a threat to democracy. He also said they scored senators on those issues because they want to initially focus on voting rights and that the scorecard could evolve to other issues.
“Voting and democracy is the protector and the empowerer of our voice on every other issue: policing, education, economic equity. Without the right to vote we have no say. No voice. No seat at the table,” Morial said Wednesday. “We’re sending a message to members of the United States Senate that we expect them to do everything in their power to protect democracy. If that means reforming the filibuster then so be it.”
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, also criticized lawmakers as putting “partisanship above country” at a critical moment in the US.
“It is time we put Senators jeopardizing our civil rights on notice. We must be loud and clear, all across the nation, that we will not rest until voting rights for all are restored,” Johnson said in a statement. ” This Congress must use any means possible to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”
Democrats, who hold the majority in both chambers and the White House, have been pressured to pass legislation on voting rights reform but have faced opposition in the Senate from Republicans, who have enough seats in the chamber to keep Democrats from reaching the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, introduced a Senate version of the legislation in early October. Last week, Leahy, along with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski — a Republican who voted to advance the bill — and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Dick Durbin of Illinois, released an updated, bipartisan compromise version of the bill making changes to the text to garner bipartisan support.
The bipartisan compromise could only later be offered as an amendment if the Senate were able to proceed to the bill.
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