The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill Must Include Voting Rights

Time is running out for the Democrats to pass President Biden’s chief legislative program, Build Back Better (BBB). While they have been working on it for months, progressive and moderate Dems can’t seem to reach a compromise that both sides can live with. Yet, they all know that if they fail to pass legislation that provides some significant benefits to the American people, their prospects in next year’s election are dismal.

Here’s a possible solution. Instead of trying to pass the whole enchilada all at once, divide the $3.5 trillion social services and tax reform bill in two:

  1. One bill would contain all the provisions from the original proposal that both sides can agree to support.
  2. The second bill would include those areas on which they cannot currently find common ground and would not be considered until after the 2022 election.

The one thing that must be included in the first bill is the 2021 Freedom to Vote Act.[1] Standing alone, voting rights bills have been blocked by Republican filibusters three times this year, most recently this week.[2] However, by inserting it in their first BBB reconciliation package, Democrats would prevent a Republicans filibuster since the reconciliation process only requires a simple majority.

For the Act to qualify for reconciliation, Democrats must also include a specific funding amount, e.g., $2 billion, to assist the states in their implementation of the voting rights provisions.[3] Adding this relatively small amount to the reconciliation bill would be much easier than changing the filibuster rule since all 50 Senate Democrats support the Freedom to Vote Act,[4] which is not the case with the latter approach.

Securing Americans’ voting rights would be a major achievement for Biden and his party. It would also give the Democrats a much greater chance of maintaining control of Congress in the 2022 election. They will have demonstrated that their party can deliver for the American people having passed the first half of Biden’s BBB program, voting rights and the $1.2 trillion, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Plus, the Democrats would have the promise of the second half of Biden’s BBB agenda – including combating climate change and lowering drug prices — which they would introduce in 2023 after next year’s election. This should energize the Democratic base to get out the vote and increase the Dems majority in Congress. With larger majorities in each house, the Democrats would then most likely be able to pass the disputed portions of the BBB program.

Clearly, progressives would be taking a chance with this compromise strategy. But the reality is that the BBB plan that finally does pass this year will be significantly reduced in size anyway and will not include some of the progressive provisions that were in the original proposal. Given the strong opposition of Sens. Manchin and Sinema to these provisions, there is really nothing they can do about that. Splitting the bill into two and including the Right to Vote Act in this year’s portion is the best that the Democrats can hope for.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/breaking-down-freedom-vote-act

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/us/senate-voting-rights-filibuster.html

[3] https://budget.house.gov/publications/fact-sheet/budget-reconciliation-basics

[4] https://www.democracydocket.com/alerts/senate-republicans-block-freedom-to-vote-act-from-floor-debate/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Freedom to Vote Act

Finally, some good news from Washington! Last week Senate Democrats introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which all 50 Democratic senators appear to support. The legislation was drafted by several senators including moderate Joe Manchin. Having objected to some provisions of the bill’s predecessor, the For the People Act, Manchin will be a vital advocate in securing final passage of the Freedom to Vote Act.

While this new bill is not as broad as the For the People Act, it includes a number of very critical provisions protecting the right to vote. Here are some of its most important articles:

  1. Requires every state to implement automatic voter registration,
  2. Makes Election Day a federal holiday,
  3. Permits every voter to request a mail ballot and drop it off at a secure drop box,
  4. Restores voting rights to anyone released from prison after serving his/her sentence,
  5. Creates the option for federal matching funds for House candidates,
  6. Requires disclosure of ‘dark money’ in the electoral process, and
  7. Bans partisan gerrymandering.[1]

The Brennan Center for Justice calls the Freedom to Vote Act “the most significant democracy reform bill in a half century.”[2]

There is, however, one major obstacle that must be overcome in order to pass this legislation. And that is, of course, the Senate filibuster. Democrats would need the support of 10 Republican senators to avoid a filibuster. While Manchin is pursuing their backing, he will almost certainly not obtain it.[3]

Therefore, the only way for this critical bill to become law is to reform the filibuster, allowing voting rights legislation to pass by a simple majority. While Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) oppose eliminating the filibuster, they have not stated they are against creating such an exception to the filibuster.

A recent Washington Postpiece offered seven reasons to believe that the filibuster will be reformed and voting rights legislation will become law this year.[4] Among them is that last March Manchin suggested he would be open to using the reconciliation process, which only requires a bare majority, to pass voting rights legislation if all efforts at bipartisanship failed. The huge wave of voter suppression and election subversion laws passed in GOP-controlled state legislatures since then strengthens the belief that Manchin and other Democratic moderates will come around and agree to filibuster reform.[5]

Perhaps the most compelling reason may be the Democrats’ desire to maintain control of Congress. Without the reforms in the Freedom to Vote Act, Republicans are likely to use the current redistricting cycle “to practice the extreme gerrymandering that could give them long-term control of the House, despite having the support of only a minority of American voters.”[6]

The future of American democracy is on the line. It is up to all of us to make sure the voting rights of all Americans are protected. Call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) to contact your Democratic Member of Congress and your Senators. Demand that they do whatever is necessary to make the Freedom to Vote Act the law of the land.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/pass-freedom-vote-act

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/revised-democratic-voting-bill-drops-controversial-provisions-tweaks-others-as-pressure-for-action-mounts/2021/09/14/6c59def8-150a-11ec-9589-31ac3173c2e5_story.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/09/13/filibuster-senate-voting-rights-democrats/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Sobering Time for Reflection and Renewal

It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A time for reflection as well as renewal. This year, it’s also a very sobering time for all Americans.

After four years of the Trump Administration, a significant majority of Americans were relieved when the Democrats won the 2020 elections and took over the federal government. Finally, sane adults were back in charge. Less than nine months later the air is quickly escaping from the Democrats’ balloon. And they’re having a very difficult time trying to stop the hemorrhaging and recapturing their mojo.

History indicates that “(m)odern midterm elections have resulted in an average loss of 30 seats in the House of Representatives and Senate by the political party whose president occupies the White House.”[1] Now, with the slimmest majorities in both houses, the Democrats have little more than a year to give the American electorate good reason to buck history and retain their Congressional majorities.

Meanwhile, Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to ensure that the Democrats lose their majority status in next year’s election. Most notably, Republican controlled state legislatures are enacting voter suppression laws making it harder for Americans to vote.[2] These laws will disproportionately affect Democratic voters.

The most effective Democratic counter to this Republican strategy would be to unite and pass major legislation that gives American voters the programs they want and the incentive to re-elect the Dems next year. Instead, they seem to have formed a circular firing squad guaranteeing they will shoot down any chance of winning next year’s election.

A prime example is the Democrats’ debate over their $3.5 trillion budget plan. When moderate Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) calls for a “strategic pause” on enacting this huge spending bill, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, replied:

“Pause on finally delivering childcare, paid leave, education, health care, affordable housing, climate action, and dental, vision, and hearing to millions of families across America? Absolutely not.”[3]

Consequently, House progressives have threatened to withhold support for the smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate if they don’t get a vote on their social spending measure at the same time.[4] Failure to resolve this impasse will spell disaster for the Party and a large majority of the American people.

Democrats are divided on other priorities as well. Nothing could be more important than protecting Americans’ right to vote. Yet, Democrats can’t seem to agree on how to deal with that pressing issue in the face of the Republican onslaught against voting rights. Without overriding the Senate filibuster, Democrats know that election reform bills like the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act are dead in the water.[5] Still, Manchin and Sen. Sinema (D-Az.) oppose eliminating, or even altering, the filibuster to protect the right to vote.

The latest critical issue that will likely be stymied by the Democrats’ internal divide over the filibuster is women’s reproductive rights. While the House will probably soon pass an abortion rights bill to counter the Supreme Court’s recent decision permitting the implementation of an extreme Texas anti-abortion law, it will surely be derailed in the Senate by the filibuster.[6]

So, in this sobering time of reflection and renewal, the Democrats must do some deep soul searching.  The urgent issues facing Congressional Democrats – voting rights,[7] the right to abortion,[8] the $3.5 trillion social budget,[9] and the For the People election reform bill[10] – all have the support of the majority of Americans.

Will the Democrats find a way to come together and give the voting majority who elected them the programs and policies they want? And, at the same time, give themselves a much better chance of winning next year’s election. Or will they continue to fight each other, cave into Republican power plays and the anti-democratic filibuster, and allow the obstructionist minority of Americans to control the future of our country?

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.thoughtco.com/historical-midterm-election-results-4087704

[2] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-july-2021

[3] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senator-manchin-wants-pause-democrats-push-35-trillion-spending-bill-2021-09-02/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/10/us/politics/progressives-democrats-budget.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/24/us/politics/house-democrats-voting-rights-bill.html

[6] https://newrepublic.com/article/163528/filibuster-blocking-roe-v-wade

[7] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/new-polls-suggest-broad-support-democrats-voting-rights-bills-n1277837

[8] https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/06/25/majority-of-americans-support-abortion-poll-finds—but-not-later-in-the-pregnancy/?sh=24f763015074

[9] https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/353582/public-opinion-trillion-senate-budget-plan.aspx

[10] https://www.rules.senate.gov/news/majority-news/reforms-in-the-for-the-people-act-are-widely-popular-with-both-republicans-and-democrats-

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Democrats Must Make a Grand Bargain

Congressional Democrats are deadlocked. House moderates want to bring the Senate-passed bipartisan, $1 trillion infrastructure bill to a vote now.[1] Speaker Pelosi and House progressives, on the other hand, insist that the Senate must approve a much larger $3.5 trillion budget resolution and send it to the House before the House will take up the bipartisan Senate bill.[2] It’s their way of trying to ensure that the bigger transformational measure makes it over the finish line as well.

But Democratic House moderates and some in the Senate believe the two bills must be dealt with separately. Sen. Joe Manchin (D.-W.Va.) recently asserted:

It would send a terrible message to the American people if this bipartisan bill is held hostage. I urge my colleagues in the House to move swiftly to get this once in a generation legislation to the President’s desk for his signature.[3]

In addition, these same Democrats, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az), feel that the $3.5 trillion is just too enormous.[4]

At the same time, the Senate is still grappling with voting rights. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) top priority when the Senate reconvenes in September is to construct a voting rights bill that all 50 Democrats will not only agree on but will also provide for a filibuster carve-out to pass without any Republican support.[5]

The Democrats fate in the 2022 elections likely depends on their ability to pass all three measures. Given all their differing perspectives, can the Democrats find a grand bargain that both their Establishment and left wings can agree on?

It’s a tall order, for sure, but here’s a possible solution:

First, Speaker Pelosi has to agree to bring up the bipartisan Senate bill for a standalone vote this week. This approach might garner some moderate Republican support in the House.[6] To avoid losing progressive backing in the House for such a vote, Senate Democrats would also consent to negotiate a final budget package between $3.0 and $3.5 trillion and pass it through reconciliation by September 20.

Second, House Democrats would agree to take up the Senate budget package and pass their version with a $3.0 trillion floor before the end of the fiscal year, September 30th. A joint committee would then work out the differences in early October for a final passage by mid-October. Providing a quick deadline would help keep progressives onboard.

Third and finally, all 50 Senate Democrats would settle on a voting rights bill to protect all Americans right to vote with a filibuster carve-out, pass it, and send it to the House for its approval within 30 days. Final passage of that bill would occur by early October.

Time is running out. Republican controlled state legislatures are already stacking the deck against the Democrats with new voter suppression legislation. America’s infrastructure is in dire need of rebuilding. An agreement along the lines outlined above would stop violations of our right to vote as well as provide a major boost to the economy and important social demands. But it will require all Democrats to compromise a little for the greater good of the nation and their party.

If the Democrats want to meet the needs of the American people and retain their majorities in both houses of Congress in next year’s elections, they must quickly find a consensus path forward.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.yahoo.com/news/deeply-divided-house-democrats-battle-165019605.html; https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/pelosi-budget-package-showdown-506589

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/sinema-35t-spending-bill-506583

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-elections-senate-elections-bills-d417ab8e6db2726eb79a8f2ce28baeca

[6] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/23/mccarthy-bipartisan-infrastructure-bill-506465

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Time Running Out to Save Our Voting Rights

Like many Americans, I am thoroughly frustrated and disgusted with the state of our politics. It’s not just all about Trump’s corruption anymore. Finally, a bipartisan infrastructure bill looks like it’s going to make it over the goal line. But wait, even though 18 Republican senators support the legislation, a few GOP members want to drag the process out further,[1] taking away precious time from other pressing Senate business before its August break.

They don’t care. In fact, that’s their game plan. They couldn’t stop the legislation, so they’ll delay its passage to put roadblocks up against other bills, like the much larger $3.5 trillion partisan infrastructure package, they oppose. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense. They can’t prevent the bipartisan bill, but if they “play their cards right,” maybe they can stop the larger legislation. The needs of their states and the country be damned!

The Democrats can play the same game. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D -CA) says the House will not vote on the bipartisan infrastructure act until the Senate passes and sends the House the larger bill as well.[2] On the one hand, it makes perfect sense as a means of pressuring Senate Democrats to get the job done. On the other hand, isn’t it better to take the $1 trillion now, get started on repairing our crumbling infrastructure, put people back to work and, at the same time, keep fighting for approval of the larger package?

All of this political maneuvering over infrastructure has pushed the critical issue of voting rights onto the back burner. This certainly seems to have been part of the Republican calculus all along. Keep the focus on roads and bridges while GOP state legislatures decimate voting rights across the country.[3] Meanwhile, they’ll work with moderate Democratic senators like Manchin and Sinema to maintain the filibuster and prevent the Senate from passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.[4]

By the time the Senate completes its work on the two infrastructure bills and takes it summer recess, it just may be too late to stop the Republican attack on our voting rights from succeeding. The results of the 2020 Census data will be released in a few days on August 12.[5] This will allow state legislatures to begin the process of redistricting using gerrymandering to give them the probability of winning a greater number of Congressional seats than they would otherwise be entitled. Since Republicans control more state legislatures, they will most likely be the winners in the redistricting process.

Unless…the Senate Democrats can pass the voting rights protection bills before Republican state legislatures enact their gerrymandered redistricting boundaries. Given what we’ve seen so far, the chanced of that happening are slim.

However, there is a bit of hope. A small group of Democratic senators has been working behind the scenes to modify the For the People Act, S.1, and save our democracy. A vote on this revised bill is expected this week before the Senate takes its August break.[6]

Still, Republicans are dead set against any federal legislation that would override the states’ right to control their elections. Their resistance to S.1 supports GOP state legislatures’ efforts to restrict Americans’ right to vote. Like the original version of S.1, the modified bill will almost certainly not receive the 60 votes needed to override a Republican filibuster.

Yet, some Democratic senators are determined to secure our voting rights. As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained, “…we’re going to keep at it until we get it done.”[7] Sen. Jeff Markley, (D-Ore.) added, “We’re very aware that action has to be extremely urgent when we return” in September.[8]

Will the Senate Democrats act swiftly enough? And will they get all their colleagues, including Manchin and Sinema, onboard to prevent a filibuster from derailing this critical legislation? The answer to these questions may very well determine the fate of our democracy.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/8/us-senators-labour-on-1-trillion-infrastructure-package;

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/07/senate-bipartisan-infrastructure-deal-502752

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com/pelosi-again-says-no-vote-on-bipartisan-infrastructure-deal-2021-7

[3] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-july-2021

[4] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/15/joe-manchin-kyrsten-sinema-filibuster-481568

[5] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/news-conference-2020-census-redistricting-data.html

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-democrats-eye-new-vote-on-voting-rights-before-summer-break-as-party-faces-pressure-to-act/2021/08/05/8501dbde-f5ea-11eb-9068-bf463c8c74de_story.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Political Leaders Refuse to Face the Truth

While Democratic senators spent precious weeks haggling with their Republican colleagues over a bipartisan infrastructure bill that should have been a no-brainer, GOP-controlled state legislatures have been undermining our democracy in broad daylight. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “17 states have enacted 28 new laws restricting voting rights so far this year, with dozens more expected to pass in Republican-led legislatures.”[1]

If that isn’t bad enough, Democrats from President Biden to Sen. Manchin (D-WV) are complicit in this demolition of democracy by failing to provide vital support for the only measures that can prevent it. Rather than calling for abolishing the filibuster or a carve out for voting rights to enable passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voter Advancement Act, the White House is banking on “out organizing” the Republicans’ voter suppression laws and gerrymandering efforts in the 2022 election.[2] Michael Li, the Brennan Center’s senior counsel for its Democracy Program, called this strategy “clueless and depressing.”[3]

If you favor the Democrats or just free and fair elections, you should be truly disheartened by all this. But then, Republicans are not satisfied with just rigging the voting process to give them an unfair advantage in future elections. They also want to rewrite history, so Americans won’t hold the black mark of the Trump inspired January 6th insurrection against them come the 2022 election.

One member of the “law and order” party called the attack on the Capitol “a normal tourist visit.”[4] Other Republicans described the Trump supported rioters as “patriotic political prisoners” and blamed Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the violence, as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) himself did.[5]

Rather than stand up for the Capitol police who protected them from the violent protesters, the great majority of Congressional Republicans have sacrificed the truth to protect their corrupt boss, Donald Trump, as well as to coverup their own disgraceful behavior.

We are living in a country where the leaders of both major political parties are unwilling to face the truth and act accordingly in the best interests of our nation. Biden and his lieutenants refuse to accept the fact that the only way to have free and fair elections is to abolish or reform the filibuster. This may well cost the Democrats the 2022 elections and the rest of us our democracy.

At the same time, Republican leadership refuses to admit that Trump and his loyal followers attempted to overthrow our government and should be held accountable. And this failure could result in the Republicans losing next year’s election as well. A recent poll in a red Tennessee district indicated that pro-democracy Republicans (34% in the poll) stated “there was no chance that they would consider a candidate who voted to block the certification of the presidential election after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”[6] One hundred and forty-seven Republicans, eight senators and 139 representatives, voted not to certify President Biden’s election.[7]  Their re-election is at-risk.

Both parties seem to have lost their way and the ability to do the right thing. It is up to us, the American people, to set them straight. But can we, and how, before it is too late?

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/07/09/dnc-strategy-denounced-clueless-and-depressing-amid-gop-assault-voting-rights

[2] https://www.alternet.org/2021/07/joe-biden/

[3] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/07/09/dnc-strategy-denounced-clueless-and-depressing-amid-gop-assault-voting-rights

[4] https://news.yahoo.com/house-republican-defends-normal-tourist-visit-comment-about-jan-6-insurrection-162631530.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/31/us/politics/jan-6-capitol-riot-pelosi.html

[6] https://newrepublic.com/article/162996/democrats-2022-house-liz-cheney-republicans

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/01/07/us/elections/electoral-college-biden-objectors.html

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Biden Counters Trump’s Big Lie with One of His Own

On Tuesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, President Biden called out Republicans for promoting the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and Trump really won. But in doing so, Biden fostered his own Big Lie.

The President advocated that the Democrats could overcome Republican voter suppression efforts and win the 2022 elections without carving out an exception to the Senate filibuster for voting rights. All the evidence suggests Biden is wrong.

Ten Republican senators must join all the Democrats to break a filibuster and pass voting rights legislation. Yet, last month all 50 Republican senators voted to block consideration of the voting rights bills.[1]

In addition, Republican and Democratic senators are having an almost impossible time hammering out a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.[2] This despite the fact that it would clearly benefit red and blue states alike. The likelihood of a bipartisan agreement on voting rights is even more daunting given Republicans’ fears that it will hurt their chances of winning future elections.[3]

Recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) proposed a voting rights compromise which included some provisions like voter I.D. that Republicans support. However, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has already indicated that he opposes Manchin’s counteroffer.[4]

To undermine the Republicans’ ever-increasing assault on our right to vote, Biden urged Congress pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. However, he never mentioned the greatest impediment to achieving that goal, the Senate filibuster, and then failed to offer a viable path forward for enacting those landmark bills.[5]

Biden appears to naively think that an “all-out effort” to educate Americans about Republican suppression of voting rights will mobilize the public to ensure these bills are passed.[6]  Even if that were the case, and that’s a very big ‘if,’ such an effort will take precious time that we don’t have. As I noted in my blog last week (“Can We Save Our Right to Vote”), redistricting of Congressional boundaries will begin soon. And Republicans are set “to gerrymander enough House of Representative districts to win back the majority in Congress in the 2022 elections. At which point, House Republicans will be able to obstruct President Biden’s entire agenda.”[7]

Fortunately, while Biden wavers, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats are pushing ahead. Schumer has called for a cloture vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for this coming Wednesday.[8] While that vote may very well fail, it will provide a clear sign of whether there are at least the minimum 10 Republican senators required to advance the bill without altering the filibuster. It may also help persuade reluctant Democratic senators like Manchin that the only way to protect our voting rights is by reforming or eliminating the filibuster.

At the same time, the man most responsible for getting Biden’s presidential campaign on the winning track, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), has called for Biden to endorse creating a carveout to the Senate filibuster for legislation like the voting rights bills that applies to the Constitution.[9] If Biden wants strong Black support for Democrats in the 2022 election, as well as for his own re-election in 2024, he had better listen to one of the most influential Black officials in the country.

The Democrats need all the help they can get. And they need it now! Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators (202-224-3121). Demand a carve out of the filibuster for voting rights and that the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act be passed and signed into law by the end of August at the latest.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/us/politics/filibuster-voting-rights.html

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/12/politics/biden-infrastructure-senate-republican-opposition/index.html

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/21/politics/voting-rights-senate-republicans-trump-biden/index.html

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/election-reform-voting-bill-mcconnell-b1868124.html

[5] https://www.reuters.com/world/us/visit-philadelphia-biden-pushing-stalled-voting-rights-law-2021-07-13/

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/13/politics/voting-rights-joe-biden-trump-big-lie/index.html

[7] https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/

[8] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/563177-schumer-sets-up-key-vote-on-bipartisan-deal

[9] https://www.politico.com/news/2021/07/10/clyburn-biden-filibuster-election-reform-499051

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Save Our Right to Vote?

American democracy is on the ropes. In state after state, Republican legislatures are making it more difficult to vote.[1] At the same time, they are making it easier to manipulate election results in their party’s favor.[2] Gaining power at any cost is their only goal.

As distressing as this is, what infuriates me even more is the Democrats inability to effectively thwart these debilitating attacks on our democracy. In effect, like Nero, they are “fiddling while Rome burns.”[3]

Time is running out. This fall all 50 states will begin drawing the district boundaries for next year’s Congressional elections based on the 2020 census. Since Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats do, they very well may be able to gerrymander enough House of Representative districts to win back the majority in Congress in the 2022 elections. At which point, House Republicans will be able to obstruct President Biden’s entire agenda.

In fact, Senate Republicans are doing just that right now.  In May they filibustered the Democrats’ bill to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 assault on the Capitol.[4] Republicans must have feared that discovering all the facts regarding the attack would damage them politically. Why else would they not want to learn the whole truth about the insurrection that threatened their own lives?

That same fear controls just about everything the GOP does today. Senate Republicans are blocking the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act because they are afraid that making it easier for people to vote will hurt their chances of winning elections. It’s that simple. They don’t care about Americans’ right to vote.

The Republican Party’s only concern is regaining power. Here’s how Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) put it:

“For the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow all of that down to get to December of 2022 and then get in here and lead…18 more months of chaos and the inability to get stuff done. That’s what we want.”[5]

And that puts voting rights and the future of American democracy squarely in the Democrats’ court. While most Congressional Democrats want to limit or eliminate the Republicans ability to filibuster, there are a few standing in the way, namely Sens. Manchin and Sinema. According to Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), one of the lead sponsors of the House version of the voting-rights bill, greater public pressure will raise the stakes on these Democratic senators:

“What the public pressure is doing is conveying the historical dimension of this…I think, ultimately, that’s what is going to land this plane—that people like Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, and others are going to feel the pull and push of history here. They are going to begin to put it in that context, and no member of the Democratic caucus is going to want to be on the wrong side of this historic opportunity to repair and restore our democracy at a moment of great challenge.”[6]

So, let’s all do our part. On Sunday, July 11 at 11 am, attend the rally to protect our voting rights at 106 S. Federal Place, east of the main post office in Santa Fe.

Join Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez, NM Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, and many others. Demand the right to vote for all Americans.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/28/politics/voter-suppression-restrictive-voting-bills/index.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/23/opinion/republicans-voting-us-elections.html

[3] https://grammarist.com/idiom/fiddle-while-rome-burns/#:~:text=The%20phrase%20fiddle%20while%20Rome,a%20song%20about%20the%20destruction.

[4] https://www.axios.com/jan-6-commission-senate-republicans-filibuster-40993503-9abb-484d-a4da-984eac929e88.html

[5] https://www.yahoo.com/news/gop-congressman-caught-video-saying-213740820.html

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/06/manchin-filibuster-voting-rights/619281/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Call to Action

In the late 1960’s, I protested against the Vietnam War. Along with millions of other Americans, I marched in New York and Washington against the War, and lobbied my congressman and senators to terminate it. Together we made a difference and helped end the war in southeast Asia.

Since then, I’ve participated in many protests including against nuclear weapons and the Iraq War, as well as for Black Lives Matter and women’s rights. While these were all critically important causes, they all lacked one vital factor that made the anti-Vietnam War protest so effective: every American had a personal stake in ending the war.

While these other critical issues personally impacted large segments of the population, none of them had the potential to affect everyone like Vietnam did. We had a draft back then. So, anyone of draft age, a son, a father, a friend or neighbor, could have been called up and sent to fight a war that more and more Americans came to oppose as it dragged on for years.

Also, for the first time, the war was in our faces. The lead story on the nightly news was the War. We saw the body bags as they arrived home. We saw distraught parents, sobbing widows, bewildered children. The war and its toll were inescapable.

Today we are in a different kind of war. It’s not halfway around the world, or the lead story on television every night. But, like Vietnam, it does have the potential to dramatically affect all of our lives. Unfortunately, while that is true, most Americans have not been able to grasp that reality in the way a deadly war did.

Today the War Against Democracy is raging in our country. And while, if we lose, it will drastically affect our lives, most of us are not engaged in the fight.

We read about the anti-democratic laws restricting our voting rights being enacted across the country and shake our heads. We are furious with the continuing Republican obstruction in Congress, where they won’t even investigate the attack on our government. We listen in disbelief as General Flynn calls for a coup to re-install Trump in the White House. Yet, for the most part, we go on with our lives doing little, if anything, to stop this madness.

I think to myself, if this were France, millions of people would be out in the streets. There would be a nationwide strike halting business as usual until something was done to ensure the government survives. Here, we write a check, call our congressperson, debate the issues, and go on about our daily lives. We allow Trump and his right-wing cohorts to get all the attention even though less than a third of the country supports him.[1] We are the silent majority.

Why are we silent? First, we feel helpless and/or hopeless. We are so overwhelmed with bad news to the point where we cannot imagine what to do. Second, many of us are too comfortable. We don’t immediately feel the consequences of what is happening. We are too removed from the struggle and the oppression to be compelled to act until it is too late. And third, we don’t believe it can happen in the United States. Autocratic coups are what happens in third world countries, but not here.

The January 6th insurrection demonstrated it can happen here. And it is personal. We can lose our right to choose who governs our country. Yes, it’s true that in many ways our right to choose has already been narrowed down unfairly or practically eliminated by power brokers. Still, if we fail to prevent the destruction of what’s left of our democracy, our ability to work together to rebuild it will be severely crippled, if not destroyed entirely.

Make no mistake. Our country is in crisis. We are on the brink of disaster. It’s time to organize. Our power is in our numbers. Take to the streets. Call for a nationwide strike and/or boycott. If you want to save our democracy, the time to act is now.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (now RepresentUs New Mexico), a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/after-100-days-out-office-trump-s-support-softens-nbc-n1265457

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Republicans’ Relentless Obstructionism and the Futile Call for Bipartisanship

The Republican Party is deeply divided. On one side are the Trumpsters. While they are united in their support for former president Trump, they actually fall into two separate camps. 

On the one hand, we have the true believers, like Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who led the fight to overturn the election and return Trump to the White House. Millions of Trump faithful are in this bloc as well. Brooks claimed that Americans “have been victims of the largest voter fraud and election theft scheme in American history,”[1] without providing any evidence.

On the other hand, we have the shameless sheep. These are the Republican officials who are too afraid of Trump’s base to stand up for the truth. Since 55% of Republicans still believe the election was stolen[2] and 60% want Trump to run for president in 2024,[3] they fear being primaried by a true Trump supporter. Holding on to power is more important to them than the future of our democracy.

According to Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Trump, most of his colleagues are thinking: “I need to continue to exist in this job so that I can make an impact. I don’t have the courage or the strength or the ability to swing this party, so I’m going to just kinda put my head down and go along.”[4]

There is, however, a third group. A small minority of Republicans who do not support Trump and his lies and are willing to speak truth to power. Most prominent among them is Rep. Liz Cheney, currently the 3rd ranking Republican in the House. She recently explained, “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”[5]

Equally striking were the comments of Michael Wood, a Texas Republican congressional candidate and former Trump backer who lost a recent U.S. House runoff with just 3% of the vote. A former Trump backer, Wood noted that the Republican Party has “lost its way”:

I don’t know what we stand for…We don’t like baseball. We don’t like Coke. We don’t like NASCAR. We don’t like Hollywood. We don’t like academia. We don’t like anything. We’re just a grievance party that hates a good hunk of America and then we call ourselves patriots, and this is just a dead end.[6]

Then, to effectively prove Wood’s point, Republican Senate minority leader and Obstructer-in-chief, Mitch McConnell, declared, “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”[7] For McConnell and the majority of Republicans, it’s all about obstruction and regaining power. To hell with controlling the pandemic or improving the lives of the American people.

Our democracy is floundering in large part because the Republican Party is rotting away. And because Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema are demanding unrealistic bipartisanship before they will support critical bills that can save our democracy from Republicans’ relentless obstructionism and their boundless craving for all-embracing power. These Democrats are standing firm despite the fact that McConnell, Hawley, Brooks and their colleagues have made it clear that they will have none of it.

Cheney and Wood are voices in the wilderness. There are no Republican leaders able and willing to heed their warnings. The critical question then becomes: Will Manchin and Sinema grasp the deadly peril our democracy faces and put the needs of the country ahead of their idealistic bipartisan principles? We must do whatever we can to help these senators see the light and do the right thing.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.                                                                                        

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (now RepresentUs New Mexico), a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-TRUMP/LAWMAKERS/xegpbedzdvq/

[2] https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/majority-republicans-still-believe-2020-election-was-stolen-donald-trump

[3] https://www.newsweek.com/6-10-republicans-want-trump-run-2024-think-2020-election-stolen-1581031

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/adam-kinzinger-trump-election-conspiracy-092610348.html

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/03/liz-cheney-republican-trump-election-big-lie

[6] https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/michael-wood-congressional-candidate-republican-party-nicolle-wallace-000443441.html

[7] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/joe-biden/mcconnell-says-he-s-100-percent-focused-stopping-biden-s-n1266443