Congress Fails to Advance Civil Rights Bills in 2023, Marking Near Historic Gridlock According to Voting Record Analysis

Contact: Patrick McNeil, [email protected]

WASHINGTON — The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Voting Record, which reflects the recorded votes taken by every senator and representative on the legislative priorities of The Leadership Conference and its coalition members, found that last year was one of the few first sessions of a Congress in recent history in which neither chamber passed meaningful civil rights legislation as scored by our Voting Record. This troubling finding is, in large part, due to a deeply divided Congress lacking in bipartisan support for civil rights legislation. It comes as our democracy faces a consequential year and amidst ongoing attacks on the hard-won rights and protections — and the diversity and inclusion policies and programs — that make us a more cohesive, effective, and fair society for everyone.

“Our Voting Record found very clearly that with democracy under attack, Congress has been more divided than the country. A majority of Americans support diversity, inclusion, rights, and justice. Congress is gridlocked because too many lawmakers are failing to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms. This is a dangerous departure from the bipartisanship we have generally seen on shared values that undergird the freedom to vote and to form a family when one chooses. While the confirmation of brilliant and diverse civil rights lawyers and public defenders is tremendously important and will make a real difference in people’s lives, there is also incredible harm being done by the deep divisions in Congress producing inaction on the issues that matter most to our communities,” said Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “During this pivotal year for our democracy and our fundamental rights, our coalition knows that we can’t win if we don’t fight on — together — to secure our freedoms and improve the lives of communities across the nation. We the majority will not stop fighting for what’s right. We urge all lawmakers to join us on the side of justice and support our civil and human rights priorities during the second session of this Congress.”

About The Leadership Conference’s Voting Record

The Voting Record — neither an endorsement nor condemnation of any member of Congress — examined nine House and 34 Senate votes taken from January 2023 through December 2023. It addresses several civil rights issues, including policing and criminal-legal reform, immigration, fair lending and economic justice, education equity, key judicial and executive branch nominations, and more. Overall, 137 House members and 43 senators supported our positions on more than 95 percent of the votes included in the Voting Record.

Findings include:

  • No Meaningful Civil Rights Legislation Passed: An analysis of our Voting Records over the past 15 years — since we began scoring each individual session — demonstrates that Congress was woefully ineffective in advancing our civil rights in 2023. This is one of the few first sessions of a Congress in recent history in which neither chamber passed meaningful civil rights legislation as scored by our Voting Record.
  • Legislation Designed to Roll Back Our Rights: For every House vote we scored, we urged members to oppose the measure being considered because it would harm our communities. The only votes in the Senate that we supported were on nominees to our federal judiciary and the executive branch — but we urged senators to oppose three resolutions of disapproval. No legislation was scored in the upper chamber because substantive civil rights legislation never came up.
  • Diverse and Qualified Judges Confirmed: In the Senate, faced with a filibuster and limited time on the legislative calendar, Senate leadership prioritized the president’s nominees — leading to confirmation of highly qualified and diverse federal judges, but limiting the public’s exposure to debates on important civil and human rights issues on the national stage.

Congress’ inaction is in stark contrast to how voters view the importance of protecting civil rights. The American people believe that democracy is threatened and that more must be done to secure our freedoms and protect our fundamental rights. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights recently commissioned a poll conducted by brilliant corners Research and Strategies — our second annual Civil Rights Monitor Poll — revealing that:

  • American voters increasingly believe that “democracy is under major threat.” An 84 percent majority believe that our democracy is under threat, which was a 6 percent increase from the previous year’s survey and underscores the need for congressional action to protect our fundamental rights and democracy. 
  • Indeed, a solid 73 percent of voters agree that the government must do more to protect civil rights — recognizing that when our civil rights are under attack, our democracy is threatened. 
  • And despite the ongoing attacks on diversity and inclusion, 88 percent agree that our nation’s diversity makes us stronger. As some try to pit our communities against each other, we the majority know that we all benefit from one another’s liberation and that vilifying people based on their identities hurts even those of us who have not been targeted.

The Voting Record, which has been issued for every Congress since 1969, comes as we also release our coalition’s legislative priorities for the remainder of the 118th Congress, which represent a path forward for our country in advancing the social and economic justice that we the majority need and deserve. It also comes on the heels of President Biden’s State of the Union address, during which the president expressed the urgency and importance of protecting our fundamental rights.

The Leadership Conference’s Voting Record is available online here. To read past editions of the Voting Record dating back to the 91st Congress, click here.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 240 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit