Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, a conservative Republican raised by a single mother who worked 16-hour days as a nurse’s aide, hotly rejected the comparison. He noted that in the Jim Crow South, African Americans could be lynched, lose their jobs or be subjected to literacy tests if they dared to vote — a far cry from today.
“As a person who was born in 1965, with a mama who understands racism, discrimination and separate and not equal, the grandfather who I took to vote and helped him cast his vote because he was unable to read, to have a conversation in a narrative that is blatantly false is offensive,” Mr. Scott said. “Not just to me or Southern Americans, but offensive to millions of Americans who fought, bled and died for the right to vote.”
That prompted an emotional comeback from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, a liberal Democrat and the Ivy League-educated son of parents who were among the first Black executives at I.B.M. Mr. Booker insisted that the racial discrimination of the past persists today.
“Don’t lecture me about Jim Crow,” Mr. Booker said, his voice rising. “I know this is not 1965. And that’s what makes me so outraged. It is 2022 and they are blatantly removing more polling places from the counties where Blacks and Latinos are overrepresented.”
Even as they stared down a setback, Democrats predicted that Americans would ultimately rally to their side when they realized that extensive efforts were underway by Republicans in states around the nation to make it more difficult for some people, particularly people of color, to vote after Democrats won the White House and Congress in 2020.
“Nothing less than the very future of our democracy is at stake, and we must act or risk losing what so many Americans have fought for — and have died for — for nearly 250 years,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan.
At issue was legislation that combined two bills that Republicans had previously blocked four times with a filibuster, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
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