Indivisibles Meet with Sen. Feinstein’s Staff in Support of FTPA

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13 mins read
At Dianne Feinstein's office

On Monday, April 5, California Indivisible groups representing tens of thousands of members gathered for simultaneous rallies at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s state offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego to urge her to fight for passage of S.1, the For the People Act, in the U.S. Senate.

"Senator Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee will make this the number one bill that has to get through over the next month or two."

In San Francisco, attendees met with Sen. Feinstein’s state director, Jim Lazarus. They asked him whether Sen. Feinstein would support the For the People Act. Here is his answer:

Lazarus said that Sen. Feinstein understands that the For the People Act is the Senate’s top priority (hence the reason it is H.R.1/S.1).

Senate Leadership has said that this is top of the list when the recess is over next week and the Congress returns to session. There are a lot of important bills, immigration reform, labor reform, the president’s soon-to-be introduced infrastructure bill, but this is HR.1 and S.1 for a reason. It is the most important bill to come before the Congress…

Indivisibles around the country will continue to ensure that senators, including holdouts Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (WV), will agree to back this bill which is so important to American democracy.

TRANSCRIPT

Indivisible Representative: So we’re really happy you were able to join us today, because we would like to hear from you regarding voting rights, electoral reform and Congress, most specifically the For the People Act. We were all outraged at the new Georgia voter suppression voter dehydration law. It is designed to suppress the votes of people of color, and it gives the state authority to take over county election boards and thereby override actual election results. We’re concerned, to say the least, about the 361 and counting voter suppression bills Republicans have introduced in legislatures in nearly every state. The right of every adult American citizen to vote is fundamental, and the For the People Act fortifies those rights. Unfortunately, just as Republicans are going into overdrive with voter suppression bills, we know that Republicans in the Senate will filibuster and do everything they can to kill the For the People Act. We look to Senator Feinstein, not just to support the bill but to fight for it. Senator Feinstein is one of the longest serving senators and a top ranking Democratic leader. Her voice carries weight. So our question today is whether we can count on Senator Feinstein to fight to pass the For the People Act in the Senate and not allow Senate Republicans to block the bill. So I will turn the mic…

Jim Lazarus: Thank you. I think it’s clear from all your activity that, you know, since the bill was introduced that Senator Feinstein was one of the original co-sponsors. Senator Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee will make this the number one bill that has to get through over the next month or two.

Senate Leadership has said that this is top of the list when the recess is over next week and the Congress returns to session. There are a lot of important bills, immigration reform, labor reform, the president’s soon-to-be introduced infrastructure bill, but this is HR.1 and S.1 for a reason. It is the most important bill to come before the Congress, and I look around and, you know, California used to be a battleground state. When we were growing up those of us who are old enough, remember this state went, you know, turnout was a huge issue. You got your people, you found out who your voters were, you turned them out. But you didn’t stop other people from turning out. And that’s the history of California and the history of so many states. But all of a sudden now we’re afraid of the voters, in state after state with no history of corruption that people should be discouraged from voting. That is not how we run our democracy. That’s not how we grew up in this state, and it isn’t how anybody should grow up in any other state in this country when they’re 18 years of age and are able to vote. The senator strongly believes this. She believes that the leadership of the Senate will come up with a path that allows this bill to go forward with 50 Democratic votes and the Vice President and the president’s signature.

You know, I have no inside information as to what path they will use to do that, but there is history with, you know, budgets, and judicial nominations that bypass the filibuster process. And because it’s unique if you’ve looked at the Constitution, Article 1, the legislative section of the Constitution, includes a section eight which is all the legislative power of the Congress, except, section four of Article 1 is the election of the Congress. That’s a separate sub section and a separate authority where they have the right to create national regulations for voting for members of the Congress. So hopefully that is the hook that allows this bill to go forward absent any concern of the filibuster. But this is so critically important. And it goes back to the original Constitution. If you’re, you know, if so many Republicans want to read a constitution as it was written in the, you know, in the late 1700s, this is the original section that empowers the Congress to create national regulations for the elections that are conducted for the House and the Senate. And that’s what we need to be doing with this, with HR.1 and S.1. And I urge you as I’ve done on all our meetings — and this is the first time in a year, it’s great to be back actually in this type of public space, we haven’t had a meeting upstairs with anybody yet this year, we’ve done zoom calls. But as I’ve said at all those you’ve got partners all over the country. I hope the same thing is happening this recess week with your Indivisible chapters all over the country to get this message out. Before that, they go back home, or go from home back to Washington over the next week.

Rally Member: It absolutely is.

Lazarus: Great. It doesn’t always, you know, it’s good to talk to the choir but sometimes you need to go to the other side.

And I want to say, I think we’re very lucky in Senator Padilla. We have a secretary of state, a former local official in Los Angeles, a former state legislator, and a secretary of state in California who can speak so well to the issues as this gets debated over the next few weeks or months in Washington because he’s been there, he’s helped to preserve fair and safe and open elections in California during some very difficult times, like the last year, without corruption, without stolen elections, you know, we know how to do it, he knows how to do it, and I think he’s going to be a strong spokesperson along with Senator Feinstein to get this bill through.

Indivisible Representative: Are there any questions?

First Questioner: I want to hear Senator Feinstein tell us that voting rights are more important than the tradition of the filibuster, and a path to get this through is one thing but we need her not relying on Padilla to champion this. We need her championing this, we need her taking the perspective of understanding the tradition of our democracy, the tradition of voting rights is way more important than protecting the minority in the Senate, and I need to hear that from her.

Lazarus: She has said that. She has said that over the last few weeks and made it clear that she will support a path to get this bill to the floor for a vote without the need of 60 votes, 100 percent, whatever the best approach that Chuck Schumer and the leadership come up with to get this bill to a vote on the floor, Senator Feinstein supports 100%.

Second Questioner: So my question is, I’m very glad to hear what you have to say about this most important bill. And as you say there are a lot more bills coming up that are also extremely important, and I want to hear Senator Feinstein take a stand for, at the very least, reforming the filibuster so that it cannot be used just routinely to block anything that the Democrats try to do, because I don’t see how we’re going to get anything done if that doesn’t change.

Lazarus: Thank you. I will let her know that. I’ve heard it from all your organizations and we’re getting that. I think the senator’s comments a few weeks ago are to that point. I mean, I’m focused on making sure that this bill gets to the floor and I know the leadership. And then the next step is to see how do we reform the process so that 40 senators don’t prevent, or one senator, but that you need 60 to move bills forward that can be stopped by one. So I think you’re gonna see a reform package come out of the leadership in the Senate.

Third Questioner: So thank you, Jim, for coming out. I don’t have a question, but I wanted to relay a message to the senator. You mentioned that you hope that these activities are going on in other states, which they are, other indivisible chapters and many groups. But also we as Californians are working together with Common Cause, making phone calls to constituents of Kyrsten Sinema, of Joe Manchin, we’re calling their constituents, asking them to call their senators. So they’re very much is a nationwide effort around the senators who are the holdouts. So we’ll stay on that.

Lazarus: Thank you so much.


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Rena Korb is a professional writer and editor. Her publications span from children’s books to political commentary. She volunteers as a DemCast California captain and as a leader with her local Indivisible chapter. She also is a lifelong activist, attending her first protest when she was 16. She lives in San Mateo with her family and, in non-pandemic times, enjoys playing Ultimate frisbee.

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