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Chellie Pingree represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the deadliest attack on our Capitol since the British burned it down in the War of 1812
On Jan. 6, 2021, after refusing to accept his election loss, former President Donald Trump encouraged a violent mob to attempt to block Congress’ certification of the 2020 election and overthrow our democracy. More than 100 police officers were assaulted that day. Four officers died as a result of the trauma they endured.
Whether you were in the Capitol Complex or watching the horror from home, we all felt an identical terror seeing our democracy under assault.
Although the former president was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting the attack, and hundreds of those who ransacked your Capitol have been charged for their crimes, the Jan. 6 insurrection continues to tear at the fabric of our country in a way that must be confronted. The bipartisan Jan. 6 commission created by House Democrats has uncovered evidence that there was a premeditated plot to delay the certification of the 2020 election. This conspiracy had the support and participation of Republican elected officials at the highest levels of government.
While the committee continues to work methodically to expose the full truth, we are encountering obstruction. Several Trump administration officials refuse to cooperate with the bipartisan panel. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon have both been held in contempt of Congress and their matters have been forwarded to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
Make no mistake: The failed attempt to overthrow our democracy on Jan. 6, 2021, did not end on that day. It is still ongoing.
Let us never forget that the goal of last year’s violent attack on the Capitol was to delay Congress’ certification of the 2020 election long enough to have several Republican-controlled legislatures invalidate the will of the people and award an Electoral College majority to Trump. While they thankfully failed, the insurrectionists and their allies in the Republican Party are working every day to undermine the integrity of our elections state by state, county by county across the nation.
Right now, Republicans are pushing more than 440 separate bills in almost every state to disenfranchise voters. In fact, in the last year, 19 have enacted 34 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. By creating strategic obstacles to the ballot box and installing partisans who supported Trump’s Big Lie to oversee future elections, they are torching public trust in our electoral systems. The only way to fight this erosion of our rights is by passing federal legislation to ensure every vote counts.
The House has prioritized voter protections. In March of last year, we passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, to limit the power of big money in politics, make our elections more transparent, and make government accountable and accessible.
In August, the U.S. House additionally approved H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for our late colleague in Congress. This legislation would restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision and more recently in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.
Both of these bills have overwhelming support from the public, but they are stalled in the U.S. Senate. Why? Because of an arcane rule called the filibuster that requires not a simple majority but 60 votes out of 100 to pass virtually any legislation. The filibuster is a Jim Crow-era relic that has long been used to stop the advancement of civil rights. It appears nowhere in our Constitution.
This outdated parliamentary rule is the biggest hurdle to salvaging our democracy. We cannot get on with the business of governing and deliver for the people who elected us with the filibuster in place. It must be abolished.
One year later, if we hope to heal from Jan. 6, we must not simply mark this day with solemn memorial but resolve to protect the integrity of our future elections. Democracy is fully at stake.