Sen. Kaine on next moves for voting reform after GOP blocked Dem measure

The partisan divide in Washington was on full display Wednesday as a Democrat-backed voting bill failed to move forward in the U.S. Senate. Every Republican lined up in opposition to the Freedom to Vote Act, which Democrats say would have improved voting access and election integrity. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine co-sponsored the legislation and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, the partisan divide in Washington was on full display today as a Democrat-backed voting bill failed to move forward in the U.S. Senate.

    Every Republican lined up in opposition to the so-called Freedom to Vote Act that Democrats say would have improved voting access and election integrity.

    Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia co-sponsored the legislation, and he joins me now.

    Senator, very good to have you back on the "NewsHour."

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA):

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does it mean that Republicans were able to block this measure even from coming up for a vote?

  • Sen. Tim Kaine:

    Well, Judy, as you point out, this was a vote to debate the bill, not to pass it, to debate it. And we made a very unusual offer to Republicans in the Senate, which is, if you vote to let us debate this bill, we will give you unlimited amendments. You can offer as many amendments as you want, and then you can still vote against it at the end if you didn't like it.

    But every Republican lined up to basically block debate on the bill; 50 Democrats support this bill. I worked very, very hard with seven colleagues to put it together. It would protect people's access to the ballot. It would eliminate dark money by requiring campaign contributions to be fully disclosed. It would end partisan gerrymandering on congressional seats.

    And it would also protect election officials, so that their duties couldn't be stripped away from them by — like state legislatures or others if they don't like how they're going to call an election.

    This is really important, and it doesn't end here. Democrats are just absolutely, with a sense of urgency, riveted upon the need to get this done. And so we're now going to have to assess how we can, in this Senate, restore the Senate to a place that will protect voting rights, which has been the case in the past and needs to be the case now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Senator, what does that mean? I mean, what are the options? Is this the moment now to go to the mat, for Democrats to go to the mat on the matter of the filibuster?

    And that means your fellow Democrat Senator Joe Manchin.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine:

    I would be perfectly comfortable if there was no filibuster in the Senate. I reached that conclusion shortly after I got here. I — as you know, I was a governor, and I was working with the state legislature, where we did things by majority rule or what — there was no supermajority vote requirement in the Virginia state Senate.

    In fact, most legislative bodies work like that, and it's fine. So I would — I would have the Senate operate like most state legislatures operate.

    But I do have at least two colleagues on the Senate side, the Democratic side, who do not want to abolish the filibuster. But the good news, Judy, is, we don't have to. We can write the Senate rules. And the and the filibuster and other Senate rules have been reformed over time. And as far as I know, no Democrats have taken off the table an openness to discussing how can we create reforms that would restore the Senate, restore it to a place where you can get action something as important as voting rights, and the majority is not stopped from moving forward on such an important priority?

    We will start to have those discussions. Leader Schumer is very passionate about this, wants us to try to get this done by Thanksgiving, and I share that sense of urgency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in the meantime, Senator Kaine, you have progressives in your party, in particular, many Black Americans, Black voters who supported Joe — President Joe Biden, who are now saying, we supported him because we thought he was going to do something about voting rights, and it hasn't happened.

    What do you say to those Americans today who are looking at this?

  • Sen. Tim Kaine:

    Judy, they're right. We owe them a result.

    I — at the end of the day, we told them, if you give us a majority, we're going to govern like we have a majority. And we have the White House in both houses. And this is not just like any other priority. Of course, there's a lot of things we would like to do. This is of existential importance.

    I stress this all the time. The 100 senators who are here now are the only 100 in the history of this country who were here when there was a domestic insurrection that attacked the Capitol to overturn an election. The attack of January 6, 2021, was an effort to disenfranchise the 80 million people who had voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

    And it was an effort to disenfranchise people based on this big lie of, oh, it was rigged, it was stolen, there's voter fraud, all those things that President Trump said were false.

    But that same big lie is being repeated ad nauseum in states with Republican legislatures and Republican governors. And they're taking away people's rights to vote.

    So, to all the activists out there, just keep being active and keep demanding that we get a result. We have to get a result. We have to protect people's rights to vote. And I'm not going to rest until we do. And I know Leader Schumer's in the same — in the same position.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, of course, Senator, even if this legislation had passed, which it didn't even come close to doing, there still would not have been a mechanism to do something about Republican-controlled state legislatures that are starting across the country to take over local voting systems, as they have done in the state of Georgia.

    What's to stop Republican-controlled legislatures in state after state from doing the same thing?

  • Sen. Tim Kaine:

    Well, this bill actually does contain guards against that, Judy, the kind of fourth pillar of the bill, which wasn't originally in the first version, the For the People Act, because we hadn't seen state legislatures doing this at the time.

    But this bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, would put some significant limitations on states taking the power away from election officials, and would give the Justice Department some significant tools to deal with that kind of — that kind of scheme. This is…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, right now, that's not in law.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine:

    Not until we pass this bill. You're right.

    We — if we pass this bill, we can protect access to ballot, protect the integrity of elections, get rid of dark money, secret money, by requiring disclosure, and also end partisan gerrymandering in congressional seats. These are items that are overwhelmingly popular, and not just with Democrats. Republican voters like these ideas. Independent voters like these ideas.

    And we have a Democratic majority. And our folks expect us to get this done. And we're going to get this done.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Tim Kaine, who was a co-sponsor of the voting rights legislation, thank you, Senator.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine:

    Absolutely.

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