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Senator Hassan Calls for Changing Senate Rules to Allow Simple Majority Vote on Protecting Democracy

“Every single American has a responsibility to help protect our democracy. Including -- and perhaps especially – United States Senators.”

 

Senator Hassan's speech

To watch Senator Hassan’s speech, click here.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) took to the Senate floor this evening to call for the Senate to change its rules in order to pass legislation protecting the right to vote by a simple majority. The Senator’s announcement comes as partisan lawmakers across the country are working to undermine free, fair, and impartial elections that threatens the country’s democratic system and its national security.

 

Here are some highlights from Senator Hassan’s floor speech:

 

“Yet right now, our beloved democracy is under attack. In states around the country, partisan lawmakers are proposing to ignore properly cast votes, essentially trying to throw out the votes and silence the voices of those with whom they disagree. These partisans are more concerned about losing power than protecting the rights of citizens and preserving the foundation of our country.”

 

“And here in Washington, a set of arcane Senate rules are being used as an excuse not to act. This cannot stand. We must change the rules, to allow a simple majority of this body, as our Founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.

 

“In states across the country, partisan politicians are calling into question the sacred American right to free, fair, and impartially administered elections. These politicians are trying to reject the will of the people, trying to interfere with elections, and yes, overturn results.”

 

Authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea would like nothing more than to see our great American experiment fail, to see members of this Congress stand by while our democracy withers on the vine. When Americans lose trust in our democracy, when the integrity of our elections is thrown into doubt, neither Republicans nor Democrats win – our enemies do.”

 

“My dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And when I was growing up and we were having breakfast, dad would sometimes look up at my brother and my sister and me and he'd say, ‘So what are you going to do for freedom today?’ It sounds like kind of a big question to ask a kid, but he was serious. Because every single American has a responsibility to help protect our democracy. Including -- and perhaps especially – United States Senators.”

 

To read Senator Hassan’s speech as delivered, see below.

 

Mr. President, I rise today to speak about a grave threat that we face, a threat to the very idea of America.

 

By law, every two years Americans cast their vote for federal office on a Tuesday in early November. Like many Americans, I’ve always treasured that day. I’ve gone to my polling place and I’ve cast my vote.

 

And when I’ve left, usually a town hall, or school – I’ve done so with the confidence that the votes would be counted, a winner declared, and my town, my state, and my country would move forward, accepting the results not because of which candidates won. But because of our confidence that the election system was run impartially, by people who believe in our democracy, and believe that democracy is about free, fair, and impartially administered elections.

 

This great democracy of ours depends on the existence of a free and fair casting and tallying of the votes -- and the public’s acceptance of that result.

 

That's the prerequisite for a functioning democracy and every other piece of our society, from our economy to our national security, depends on it.

 

Without free, fair, and impartially administered elections, the United States of America as we know it would not exist.

 

Yet right now, our beloved democracy is under attack. In states around the country, partisan lawmakers are proposing to ignore properly cast votes, essentially trying to throw out the votes and silence the voices of those with whom they disagree. These partisans are more concerned about losing power than protecting the rights of citizens and preserving the foundation of our country.

 

And here in Washington, a set of arcane Senate rules are being used as an excuse not to act. This cannot stand. We must change the rules, to allow a simple majority of this body, as our Founders intended, to pass laws that will protect the right to vote and protect American democracy.

 

In states across the country, partisan politicians are calling into question the sacred American right to free, fair, and impartially administered elections. These politicians are trying to reject the will of the people, trying to interfere with elections, and yes, overturn results.

 

This is not an idle threat – it’s happening right now: As the President well knows, earlier this year in Georgia, a new law enabled the legislature to seize control of the State Election Board, allowing elected legislators to install a partisan majority beholden to that legislature, with the ability to suspend and replace local election officials.

 

And in Arizona, legislators have proposed a bill that would enable the state legislature to override an election certification with a simple majority vote.

 

These efforts threaten the integrity of our election system, and` that in turn threatens our peace, stability, and certainty – the very rule of law that makes individual liberty, a vibrant economy possible, and yes the peaceful transfer of power, possible.

 

There is no single aspect of American life that isn't related to free, fair, and impartially administered elections. We have public schools, safe neighborhoods, access to health care, support for small businesses, and access to the great outdoors – all because ordinary Americans can make their voices heard and hold their government – a government of, by, and for the people – accountable.

 

In America, as imperfect as we are, everybody has the opportunity to succeed, because everyone has the opportunity to vote.

 

But that all changes when our election system is corrupted by politicians who are more interested in clinging to power, than being responsive to the people who they were elected to represent. 

 

When those in power work to create a partisan electoral system, where the focus is not on ensuring that every vote is counted, but is instead on ensuring a predetermined outcome, those in power become less and less responsive to the will of the people. And as citizens become more disenfranchised and angry, those in power increasingly rely on authoritarian methods to stay in power.

 

That is the road that we risk going down if this systematic undermining of our elections and our democracy continues.

 

Authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea would like nothing more than to see our great American experiment fail, to see members of this Congress stand by while our democracy withers on the vine. When Americans lose trust in our democracy, when the integrity of our elections is thrown into doubt, neither Republicans nor Democrats win – our enemies do.

 

But we in the Senate can stop this threat to our democracy – by acting to protect the fundamental right to vote.

 

The Constitution gives Congress the power to oversee federal elections. That means that Congress has the authority to protect democracy and the right to vote – and we have a constitutional and moral obligation to do so. That was part of the oath I swore to “support and defend the Constitution” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

 

Congress has a responsibility to act now to ensure that the right of every American to vote is never taken away. We must pass legislation to prevent partisan politicians from rejecting the will of the people and overturning election results.

 

And because that effort here in Congress is being blocked by a minority which is abusing its power, I believe the time has come to change the Senate rules to allow a straight up or down majority vote on this fundamental issue of democracy.

 

Our Founders understood that our democracy was a fragile thing that we would always have to fight to protect. Across every generation, Americans have signed up to serve not just to protect our physical security, but to protect our freedom. American soldiers, like my father, fought in World War II, they saved the world from Hitler, preserving freedom around the globe. 

 

My dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And when I was growing up and we were having breakfast, dad would sometimes look up at my brother and my sister and me and he'd say, ‘So what are you going to do for freedom today?’ It sounds like kind of a big question to ask a kid, but he was serious. Because every single American has a responsibility to help protect our democracy. Including -- and perhaps especially – United States Senators.

 

We must change the Senate rules to protect the right to vote, because if we don’t, we face a very different kind of Election Day than the one we have now. If the partisans who are attacking our democracy have their way, our Tuesday Election Day in early November will be different.

 

We’ll wake up, cast our vote, drop our kids at school, go to work. We’ll tune back in at the end of the day to see the election results – only to learn that the vote tally is being ignored, that our votes don't matter much. We’ll learn that our legislatures are going to throw out the results and pick their own winner. We’ll see an election day that is a charade – just like in countries where democracy doesn’t exist.

 

Our democracy is too important to allow a minority of this body to let it slip away. We must pass legislation to protect American democracy. Our country depends on it.

 

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor. 

 

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