“President Obama is absolutely right,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday. “It is an outrage that modern-day poll taxes, gerrymandering, I.D. requirements, and other forms of voter suppression still exist today. We must pass a comprehensive agenda to guarantee the rights and dignity of everyone in this country. And that means, among other things, reauthorizing and expanding the Voting Rights Act, for which Congressman John Lewis put his life on the line. As President Obama said, if that requires us to eliminate the filibuster, then that is what we must do.”
Sen. Tom Udall, a longtime proponent of abolishing the filibuster, tweeted his thanks to Obama.
“The arbitrary, 60-vote filibuster has long been an obstacle to progress, particularly on racial justice and voting rights,” the New Mexico Democrat said.
Those obstacles were erected long before the current Senate majority. Because of the filibuster, civil rights legislation that would occasionally pass the House would die in the Senate. Sen. Richard B. Russell of Georgia, dean of the “solid South,” formed strategic alliances to block liberal majorities.
“Southerners helped GOP conservatives defeat economic legislation and in return these conservatives, most of them from states without enough black voters to punish them, tacitly refrained from supporting the civil rights legislation anathema to the South, and from breaking southern filibusters,” according to Robert A. Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, “Master of the Senate.”