Progressive Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) was arrested near the Capitol on Thursday while participating in a voting rights protest.
It comes after his fellow Squad members attacked their Democratic Senate counterparts Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for siding with 50 Republicans to uphold the filibuster even as the rule stopped voting rights legislation they supported from passing.
‘Today, Congressman Jamaal Bowman joined a voting rights non-violent direct action at the North Barricade of the US Capitol Building and was arrested by the US Capitol Police,’ Bowman spokesman Marcus Frias told multiple outlets.
‘We will provide more information and updates as we gather them.’
Frias said the outspoken progressive Squad member was one of at least 20 others’ arrested, ‘including faith leaders and youth who have been hunger striking for our democracy.’
Capitol Police officers made a total of 28 arrests as left-wing activists demonstrated for federal voter protections, the law enforcement agency wrote on Twitter today. The statement did not say whether Bowman was among that number.
By the time they announced the arrests around noon, Capitol Police said they had given demonstrators ‘three warnings.’
An activist group led by college students called Un-PAC announced earlier this month it would be staging a hunger strike in Washington, DC in a bid to put pressure on Congress to pass voting legislation, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, by Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday.
Bowman (far right) is being restrained by a police officer during a demonstration outside the US Capitol
Bowman was participating in a protest in favor of federal voting legislation, after Democrats failed to pass it on Wednesday evening
Bowman’s spokesman said he was arrested with roughly 20 other people
The Capitol Police put out a statement that they had arrested 28 people demonstrating outside the Captiol. They didn’t say whether Bowman was among that number
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., hinted at racism on Wednesday night in Manchin and Sinema’s decision to keep the rule requiring 60 votes in the Senate to pass most legislation.
‘The legacy of Jim Crow is alive and well in 2022,’ she said. ‘That’s all I have to say right now about Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Senate Republicans.’
The voting rights package failed to pass Wednesday night with 50 Democrats voting for it and 50 Republicans voting against it. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – who knew the legislation would fail but forced a vote anyways – then put up a vote on a rules change that would have instituted a ‘talking filibuster’ on the package, allowing a simple majority vote to move it forward after senators stood at their desks and exhausted the debate.
That vote failed too, as expected, with Manchin and Sinema siding with Republicans to uphold the 60-vote hurdle to most legislation.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said that Manchin, Sinema and Republicans believe ‘democracy is not for all of us.’
Squad members attacked their Democratic Senate counterparts Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for siding with 50 Republicans to uphold the filibuster even as the rule stopped voting rights legislation they supported from passing
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said that Manchin, Sinema and Republicans believe ‘democracy is not for all of us’
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., even hinted at racism in their decision to keep the rule requiring 60 votes in the Senate to pass most legislation
‘Even as it was expected, the vote last night was still painful. It showed us that some still believe that democracy is not for all of us,’ she wrote on Twitter after the vote.
‘Still remembering the images of the white mob violently banging on windows at our convention center shouting to stop the vote count. This Senate vote enables this attack on our democracy. They don’t want our votes to count or make a democracy accessible to all of us, just them,’ she wrote in a subsequent tweet.
‘Just days after MLK Day, 52 Senators chose the Jim Crow filibuster over democracy and our sacred right to vote. What a damning commentary on the state of our union. The people won’t forget and this fight is not over,’ said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
The package combined two separate legislative items that were already passed by the House — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bills would make Election Day a holiday, adjust the redistricting process and crack down on money in politics.
Despite a day of piercing debate and speeches that often carried echoes of an earlier era when the Senate filibuster was deployed by opponents of civil rights legislation, Democrats could not persuade holdout senators Sinema and Manchin to change the Senate procedures on this one bill and allow a simple majority to advance it.
Manchin forcefully defended his opposition to changing the filibuster rule, even though he supports the voting rights legislation itself. His vote would be needed to overturn the rule.
What’s in the John Lewis Act and the Freedom to Vote Act
The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act together would make Election Day a holiday, expand access to mail-in voting and strengthen U.S. Justice Department oversight of local election jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.
Republicans oppose federal laws on voting, arguing elections should be run on a state level. Democrats are pushing the bills to combat a slew of new state laws in GOP-controlled states that they claim hurt voting rights access, particularly among people of color, and would help nullify election results.
The two pieces of legislation were combined into a single bill. The House passed the single bill on Thursday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
Because the bill will be categorized as a ‘message between the houses,’ Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer can skip the 60-vote threshold needed to start debate, allowing him to bypass Republicans’ vow to filibuster.
That will allow debate to begin on the legislation. However, it doesn’t guarantee the legislation will get passed. When debate on the bill concludes, Schumer will still need 60 votes to file cloture to end debate on the bill – that means he needs 10 GOP senators on board.
Republicans can use their filibuster power then to stop the legislation its tracks.
Here is what is in the legislation:
The Freedom to Vote Act is a slimmed down version of the House-passed For the People Act, a massive Democratic bill on on voting rights, campaign finance, and federal ethics.
After Senate Republicans filibustered the For the People Act in the Senate in June, a group of Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin, drafted the Freedom To Vote Act.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has called the act an attempt by Democratic lawmakers ‘to have the federal government take over how elections are conducted all over America.’
The legislation would require:
- Making Election Day as a federal holiday.
- Creating a national standard on elections: A set of standards for federal elections to ensure that voters have similar access to the ballot box across the country.
- Online, automatic, and same-day voter registration.
- A minimum of 15 days of early voting, including during at least two weekends.
- No-excuse mail voting with ample access to ballot drop boxes and online ballot tracking, in addition to streamlined election mail delivery by the US Postal Service.
- States would need to accept a wide range of forms of non-photographic identification in places where ID is required to vote.
- Counting eligible votes on provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
- Restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated people convicted of felonies.
- Imposes stricter regulations on voter list maintenance that make it harder for states to remove eligible voters from the rolls.
- More protections and resources to serve voters with disabilities and overseas/military voters.
- Greater federal protections and oversight for voting in US territories.
- Improving voter registration resources and outreach, in addition to reauthorizing and strengthening the US Election Assistance Commission.
It would also:
- Prohibit partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to use certain criteria when drawing new congressional districts.
- Require states to use voter-verifiable paper ballots and conduct post-election audits.
- Give cybersecurity grants to states and directs the EAC to strengthen cybersecurity standards for voting equipment.
- Prohibit local election officials from being fired or removed without cause.
- Make interfering with voter registration a federal crime, and imposes stricter penalties against harassment, threats, and intimidation of election workers.
- Restate chain of custody requirements protecting the integrity of ballots and election materials, a provision meant to combat unofficial partisan ‘audits.’
Finally, on campaign finance reform:
- It includes provisions from the DISCLOSE Act, which targets so-called dark money in elections, and the HONEST Ads Act, which seeks to enhance transparency in campaign advertising.
- Creates a federal obligation for campaigns to report instances of foreign interference.
- Stricter enforcement of illegal coordination between single-candidate PACs and campaigns.
- Stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations by the Federal Election Commission.
The John Lewis bill would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights of 1965 that have been struck down or weakened by the Supreme Court, and change the way federal courts handle election cases.
Senate Republicans struck down the act in November. All GOP senators voted against it except Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. But her support still left Democrats short the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation.
McConnell called the bill a ‘trojan horse.’
‘This is a Trojan horse to carry a lot of other provisions that the Democrats had wanted to enact through the earlier voting rights bill that we’ve already considered and rejected,’ he said.
‘Clearly they want to change the subject away from how the American people feel about this administration, about the reckless tax and spending bill onto a nonexistent problem with this marching out of the John Lewis voting rights act,’ he said.
- It creates a new formula to restore the federal preclearance requirement mandating states with histories of discrimination to seek permission from the federal government before enacting new voting rules or redistricting plan. The Supreme Court struck down the old formula.
- Reverses the Supreme Court’s new ‘guideposts’ and standards from the Brnovich decision that make it harder for plaintiffs to prove racial discrimination under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
- Enshrines judicial precedent and legislative history to strengthen efforts to draw majority-minority districts under the parameters of the Voting Rights Act.
- Takes aim at the federal courts by requiring judges to explain their reasoning in emergency rulings they take up on the so-called shadow docket, and tries to limit judges’ from relying solely on the proximity to the election in deciding emergency cases on election rules, known as the Purcell principle.
- Election Worker and Polling Place Protection Act, which provides greater federal protections for election workers against harassment and intimidation.
- Includes the Native American Voting Rights Act, a bill that strengthens voting rights and voter protections for voters in Indian Country.
‘Let this change happen in this way and the Senate will be a body without rules,’ Manchin said. ‘We don’t have to change the rules to make our case to the American people for voting rights.’
Even President Biden himself suggested future elections could be ‘illegitimate’ without the package ahead of the Senate vote.
During the press conference Wednesday afternoon, Biden was asked if the midterm elections would be ‘legitimate’ and he said that ‘it all depends,’ likely referencing whether the voting rights package passed later that evening, which it did not.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House Majority Whip and No. 3 Democrat in Congress, said Thursday morning he is ‘absolutely concerned’ future election results could be illegitimate after the John Lewis Voting Rights Act failed to pass the Senate Wednesday night.
The Maryland congressman doubled down on a suggestion President Biden made during his press conference Wednesday that elicited shock across the media world and forced his press shop to clean up his remarks.
‘Do you agree with what [Biden] said in that press conference, are you concerned that without these voting rights bills the election results won’t be legitimate?’ CNN’s Kasie Hunt asked Clyburn Thursday morning.
‘I am absolutely concerned about that,’ he replied.
Clyburn said that 9 years ago the Supreme Court ‘took direct aim’ at the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder by eliminating the pre-clearance requirement, where states had to submit their new voting bills to the Department of Justice and prove they were not discriminatory if they were determined to have a history of discriminatory laws.
Republicans, meanwhile, seemed to grow tired of being branded as ‘racists’ for opposing the bill.
‘Depending on which side you’re on in this body today on this [voting rights] issue, you’re either a racist or a hypocrite. Really? Really, is that where we are?’ Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked on the Senate floor.
The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, said at one point, ‘I am not a racist.’
Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell derided the ‘fake hysteria’ from Democrats over the states’ new voting laws and called the pending bill a federal takeover of election systems. He said doing away with filibuster rules would ‘break the Senate.’
He noted that ‘African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.’
‘A recent survey, 94 percent of Americans thought it was easier to vote,’ he continued. ‘This is not a problem. Turnout is up, biggest turnout since 1900. It’s simply — they’re being sold a bill of goods.’
McConnell’s phrasing was poorly received by Democrats, who insisted that he meant to ‘other’ black people as non-American.
He presumably meant that African Americans vote at the same rates as Americans overall, which is true.
In 2008 and 2021, the years Barack Obama was running for president, black turnout actually exceeded turnout for all Americans. In 2016 and 2020, black turnout was consistent with the U.S. average.
‘Please take 19 seconds to watch this video to understand why we have to fight for voting rights for ALL Americans, and why we have to stop the xenophobia, bigotry, racism, and partisanship that assumes only some people are American,’ Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., wrote on Twitter, quoting the clip of McConnell’s remarks.
‘This is modern-day racism in full view. Being American isn’t synonymous with being white. #MitchPlease,’ wrote Rep. Donald McEachin, D.-Va.
‘THIS IS DISGUSTING: To defend his stance against voting rights, Mitch McConnell is citing ‘statistics’ that ‘African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans.’ African-American voters ARE AMERICANS & to suggest otherwise is about as racist as it gets!’ said Rep. Diana DeGettem D-Colo.
McConnell told DailyMail.com his comment were consistent with previous Americans that voter turnout was high in the 2020 election for all Americans.
‘I have consistently pointed to the record-high turnout for all voters in the 2020 election, including African-Americans.’
Sen. Mitt Romney accused Democrats of going into ‘deep hysteria.’
‘Now I’d note that political overstatement and hyperbole may be relatively common and they are often excused, but the president and some of my Democratic colleagues have ventured deep into hysteria,’ Romney said in an evening speech on the Senate floor.
‘Their cataclysmic predictions for failing to support their entirely partisan election reform — worked out entirely by themselves without any input whatsoever from any single person on my side of the aisle — are far beyond the pale.’
On Sunday, Romney said he is willing to work with Democrats on voting rights but ‘I never got a call on that from the White House.’