Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was the first to testify at Democrats’ Senate hearing in Atlanta on Monday and used his speaking time to rail against his state for “voter suppression” and urge Congress to pass “federal voting rights” legislation.
The hearing was the first field hearing the Senate Rules Committee hosted in 20 years and was led by chairwoman Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), an outspoken proponent of federalizing aspects of states’ election processes.
No Republicans participated in the hearing, which focused largely on criticizing Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021.
During Warnock’s opening remarks, he blasted the bill, saying, “Over the last year, Georgia has become ground zero for the sweeping voter suppression efforts we’ve seen gain momentum all across our country.”
The passage of Georgia’s election bill in March was met with outrage from Georgia Democrats, including Warnock, and prompted Major League Baseball (MLB) to pull its All-Star Game from Atlanta, a move that backfired after it deprived the city of tens-of-millions of dollars in anticipated revenue. The game also ended up seeing its second-lowest ratings on record.
Warnock during his testimony claimed the bill created “hurdles,” such as forcing voters to request absentee ballots and implementing controls over ballot drop boxes. He also used the often-repeated line of attack about the change from allowing people to hand out water to instead allowing self-service water stations, citing it as an example of the bill making it harder for Georgians to vote.
“This is a sacred moment,” Warnock declared. “This is an inflection point in our country. We are in a 9-1-1 emergency for our democracy. History is watching us and the future is waiting to see if we will act.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) delivered remarks after the Democrats’ hearing, saying the event was not about election integrity but instead was about “raising money and grabbing more power”:
Today, Washington Democrats continued their false attacks on Georgia’s Election Integrity Act with more lies about what our bill does. After months of Pinnochios and fact checks, it is obvious they still have not actually read SB 202. Here’s the truth. pic.twitter.com/nvB4RJXE0t
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) July 19, 2021
“After months of Pinocchios and fact checks, it is obvious Democrats still have not actually read SB 202,” Kemp said. “For President Biden, Sen. Klobuchar, and her Democratic colleagues, their false attacks and politicized lawsuits aren’t about expanding voting rights at all. It’s about raising money and grabbing more power.”
Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who Warnock narrowly defeated in a high-profile Senate runoff race in January, called the hearing a “farce,” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) denounced it as a “silly stunt” based on “Democrats’ phony hysteria.”
Senate Republicans in June successfully blocked Democrats’ attempt to apply federal standards to states’ voting processes through the “For the People Act,” but Democrats have since vowed to seek other avenues for election reform.
Referencing his Preventing Election Subversion Act he introduced last month as one example, Warnock said during his testimony, “Our fight has only begun, and I’m going to keep working in earnest with my Senate colleagues to pass voting rights legislation and to do it this Congress.”
President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has also joined in targeting states’ control over election policies. The department announced days after the For the People Act failed to pass the Senate that it filed a lawsuit against Georgia, alleging the state’s Election Integrity Act is racially discriminatory, “particularly” against black voters.
The lawsuit, DOJ said, was part of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s “commitment to expand the Justice Department’s efforts to safeguard voting rights.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].