PBS NewsHour: Democrats ‘another step closer’ to reforming filibuster, Sen. Padilla says
Judy Woodruff discusses Tuesday’s Senate vote on a voting rights bill with California Sen. Alex Padilla. He was also California’s secretary of state for the 2020 presidential election.
Read the Full TranscriptJudy Woodruff: And now, for a Democrat’s point of view. I’m joined by California Senator Alex Padilla. He served as California’s secretary of state during the 2020 presidential election.Senator Padilla, welcome back to the “NewsHour.”So, what do you say to the main Republican argument that this voting rights bill would be a federal takeover of elections?
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA): Well, nothing could be further from the truth.So, the first thing I would say is, let’s speak the truth. With the passage of S.1, what we’re hoping to establish is a baseline of voter protections and access to the ballot for all eligible voters in America.What the Republicans are trying to suggest, that this is a federal takeover of elections, it’s not true. It’ll still be state and local governments that are responsible for administering the elections.But here’s the big question. What are they afraid of? Today’s vote is simply a procedural vote to allow for discussion, for debate about voting rights and people’s participation in our democracy. And they can’t even bring themselves to support that.
Judy Woodruff: Well, the argument, as you know, they make repeatedly, as we just heard from Senator Thune, the argument they make is that this would be a federal takeover, which they say is traditionally not the way elections are run.But the other argument we hear them making is that there was the biggest turnout ever for this last presidential election. Why are Democrats trying to make it possible for so many more people to vote, when so many have already voted, as we saw last November?
Sen. Alex Padilla: Yes.Well, again, plenty of precedent for Congress to step in to protect our right to vote, the integrity of elections from the federal Voting Rights Act, to the Help America Vote Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and more.And as far as, compared to 2020, which was, by and large, a successful election, they’re right. But they can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, they will say, things worked well in 2020, we don’t need to change the laws, yet they stand by while state legislatures across the country are changing the rules to make it harder for eligible voters to register to vote, to stay registered to vote, or to actually cast their ballot.That’s why we need these reforms.
Judy Woodruff: And, Senator, we heard, not just Senator Thune, but other Republicans saying this is all about Democrats trying to make a partisan move, that Democrats know that what you’re trying to do by getting — by making it easier for some people to vote who may be marginally qualified or not, that you believe this will help Democrats and that, in other words, you’re driven by politics.
Sen. Alex Padilla: No, the fact of the matter is, this is not about Democrat vs. Republican. This is about voting rights.Any eligible voter in America should be able to easily register, stay registered to vote, not be purged, and be able to cast their ballot. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about this is because, for the prior six years, as you mentioned, I served as California secretary of state.The reforms we’re asking for, online voter registration, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, more vote by mail, more interest in early voting, are reforms that I helped champion and implement in California.And what did it lead to? Record voter registration. Record turnout in 2012, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and minimal, minimal administrative issues, and, frankly, let’s go one step further, zero evidence of massive voter fraud.This voter fraud concern is a pretext for Republicans to want to make it harder for marginalized communities to be able to participate in our democracy. Let the people vote. Let us have a debate. And stop favoring multinational corporations and the wealthiest families in America.That’s what the Republican Party — that’s what they’re going to bat for.
Judy Woodruff: Well, Senator, let’s talk in practical terms here.Even if you get every single Democrat on board for this vote, you have 50 votes. It looks as if all 50 Republicans are against that. That means you don’t pass it. You need 60 votes, according to the Senate rules. You don’t have that.What do Democrats do once this goes down, which it is expected to do?
Sen. Alex Padilla: So, well, again, we have got to call it out for what it is. What are Republicans afraid of?The American people deserve to know which party it is that is going to bat for their fundamental right to vote, and which one is trying to suppress the vote?In terms of advancing these policies, we will continue to press. The fight does not end today. We will continue to try to discuss, try to negotiate, find other ways to advance these proposals, because our right to vote is that important.And in the meantime, thank the Biden administration and Attorney General Merrick Garland for already committing additional resources to litigate, if necessary, to defend our right to vote and access to the ballot.
Judy Woodruff: And speaking of Senate rules, though, it’s — of course, it’s known as the filibuster.And in order to change that, Democrats would have to come together. Even Democrats don’t have enough votes right now to change that rule. So, my question, again, is, where do Democrats go? Are you looking — if you can’t get this done in Washington, are you looking at going state by state, or what?
Sen. Alex Padilla: We may well be another step closer to either eliminating or at least reforming the filibuster for the sake of our democracy.Let’s look what’s happened this year alone. Earlier in the year, after the deadly insurrection of January 6, Republicans would not stand up to the very important notion of a peaceful transition of power. And now they’re ducking the discussion and debate about supporting our fundamental rights to vote.So, too much is at stake. We’re going to keep pressing on.
Judy Woodruff: Senator Alex Padilla of California, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Sen. Alex Padilla: Thank you.
To read the full article, click here.