January 20, 2022 – In response to the failed vote to protect voting rights, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform movement:
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. We are deeply dismayed that last night, a slim majority of United States senators, including the entire Republican caucus and two Democrats, failed to protect that right by refusing to reform the outdated filibuster that excludes the minority voice from being heard, upholds systemic racism and white supremacy, and limits the right to vote for all Americans.
Jewish tradition celebrates the meaningful exchange of ideas and respect for minority viewpoints. The Talmud even goes so far as to preserve the opposing and minority opinions in its text alongside the consensus viewpoint. Aligned with these teachings and practices, we recognize the truth and wisdom in opposing views and we value wrestling with and trying to reconcile such conflicting opinions. Likewise, a healthy democracy requires the constant balancing of majority and minority rights. The Senate’s failure to enact filibuster reform sustains an imbalance of power and the continuation of a legislative body that does not function properly.
The filibuster has too often been used to thwart important American and Jewish values of equality, equity, and justice. The most memorable uses of the filibuster have been to thwart attempts to pass civil rights statutes in the 1950s and 1960s. And from 1917-1994, half of the 30 bills blocked by the filibuster were civil rights legislation. Yesterday’s vote has now been added to that shameful history. The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would restore critical protections against racially discriminatory laws and move us toward a democracy that responds to the needs and priorities of voters. The blocking of this bill comes after a year during which lawmakers in 19 states rolled back progress on Americans’ civil rights by enacting 34 laws that restrict access to the ballot box.
We hope and pray and will work to ensure that the Senate returns our democracy to one that respects the right to vote for all people.”