“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” made its return Sunday night on HBO after a momentous couple months off the air, and Oliver started things off with the most pressing issue of the moment: that the Democrats, who currently control both the White House and both houses of Congress, don’t seem as committed to defeating Republican attempts to restrict voting rights.
“Republican legislatures across the country have responded to what’s been called the most secure election in U.S. history by pushing new laws to make voting significantly more difficult,” Oliver said during his opening segment. “In Arizona, they put forward 19 bills to restrict voting rights. And nationwide, 33 states are considering over 165 restrictive bills just this year.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom, Oliver said, as there is a path to prevent those bills from having any power.
“Luckily there is currently legislation in Congress — HR1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — that could help curb state level attempts at voter suppression,” Oliver went on. “Unfortunately, the best shot those bills have at getting enacted is if Democrats ends the filibuster, and to do that every Senate Democrat would need to be on board. The problem there is one of those Democrats is Joe Manchin.”
“Last Week Tonight” then pulled up a short montage of the West Virginia senator, the rare Democrat who holds office in a deep-red state, repeatedly saying he won’t help abolish the filibuster.
“We’re not going to bust the filibuster. We’re not going to bust the Byrd Rule that basically protects the filibuster,” he said in the first.
“I’m not going to break the Byrd Rule. I’m not killing the filibuster. I’m protecting the Senate in honor of Robert C. Byrd, whose seat I sit in,” Manchin said in another.
“So you’re talking about a person’s going to defend the legacy of Robert C. Byrd.”
Oliver was not amused.
“OK, it’s bad enough that you’re defending the filibuster, let alone doing it to defend the legacy of Robert C. Byrd — a man who literally used it to try and block the original Voting Rights Act in 1964,” Oliver exclaimed, incredulous. “He used the thing you’re advocating for in the worst possible way. It’d be like promoting Zoom by reminding everyone that Jeffrey Toobin used it. You’re really not helping your case there.”
But, Oliver noted, there are other folks aside from Manchin that the Democrats would need to wrangle into place for this.
“It’s not just Manchin. Democrats like Kirsten Sinema and Dianne Feinstein have also defended the filibuster, and both Biden and Harris have been lukewarm on the issue in the past. Which is very frustrating, because Democrats simply cannot afford to rest on their laurels right now. Republicans definitely aren’t,” Oliver said.
“They’ve made it abundantly clear they’re willing to take things to drastic levels, and Democrats just don’t seem remotely prepared to meet that threat right now. But you know what? You know what? Don’t worry. I’m sure that GOP will simply put the past behind them, recognize what they’ve done wrong, and shepherd all of us into our bipartisan era of mutual cooperation for the common good.”
Oliver ended the segment by pulling out an airhorn labeled “sarcasm alert” and honked it.
“That was sarcasm,” he said.
Watch the video above.