Former President Barack Obama called the Senate filibuster rule a “Jim Crow Relic” and said it should end, especially if that’s what’s needed to pass legislation restoring a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
According to The Hill, Obama made the remarks during his eulogy for civil rights legend John Lewis (D-GA) who died at the age of 80, earlier this month. The provision, which is named after Lewis, would make it harder for states to enact racially suspect voting restrictions.
“Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching,” Obama said Thursday. “And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster—another Jim Crow relic—in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do.”
Obama’s support for eliminating the Senate filibuster, a procedural tactic that requires 60 votes for legislation to proceed, could spark intense political debate with the upcoming election less than 100 days away. If Democrats win the Senate and the White House, they could get rid of the filibuster to push high-priority legislation into law.
Democratic Nominee Joe Biden said he might support eliminating the filibuster if Senate Republicans were to adopt a hard-line stance on opposing proposals from a Democratic majority.
The Lewis voting rights measure is a response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. A 5-4 ruling struck down Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The provision required states with a recent history of racism at the ballot box to get federal approval, known as pre-clearance, before changing their voting laws.
Since the provision was struck down during Obama‘s second term, multiple states have passed voting restrictions that legal analysts and some courts have found to have affected a disproportionate number of minority populations.
“The decision in Shelby County opened the floodgates to laws restricting voting throughout the United States,” a fact sheet from the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice states. “The effects were immediate. Within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced that it would implement a strict photo ID law. Two other states, Mississippi and Alabama, also began to enforce photo ID laws that had previously been barred because of federal preclearance.”