A GOP Senator Lectured Chuck Schumer About the Sabbath to Defend Voter Suppression

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith cited the Old Testament as a reason to prevent people from voting on Sunday.
On the left, ​Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. On the right, Sen. Chuck Schumer.
On the left, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) speaks at a hearing on September 16, 2020 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images) On the right, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a hearing before Senate Rules and Administration Committee at Russell Senate Office Building March 24, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is apparently unaware that the Bible doesn’t govern voting laws. 

But perhaps even more curious is the decision the Mississippi senator made on Wednesday to lecture the first Jewish Senate Majority Leader in U.S. history about the Sabbath, and specifically that it falls on a Sunday. 

In Judaism, the Sabbath, or Shabbat, lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. 


Sen. Hyde-Smith and Sen. Chuck Schumer took part in a Senate Rules Committee debate over the For the People Act, the election reform bill passed by the House earlier this month

During his opening statement, Schumer specifically cited an effort by the Republican-led Georgia state Legislature to ban early voting on Sunday. (Georgia Republicans have since modified the bill to allow counties to schedule up to two Sunday early voting days, though it still restricts voting access in a myriad of other ways.) The Georgia House is expected to pass that bill today.  

Calling Georgia’s initial move to restrict voting a “reprehensible effort,” Schumer cited the longstanding tradition of “Souls to the Polls,” a voter mobilization effort by Black churches and civil rights groups on Sundays to increase access to the ballot for Black voters, who’ve been historically disenfranchised. He argued that the bill sought to depress Black turnout in a state that just voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in decades, with Black voters overwhelmingly voting Democrat, and delivering the Democrats their Senate majority


“What an astonishing coincidence: outlaw voting on a day when African-American churches sponsor get-out-the-vote efforts,” Schumer said.

“I’d like one of the Republican members on this committee to give us a plain-sense justification for that restriction,” Schumer added.  

That’s when Hyde-Smith jumped in. 

“I would like to respond to that: Georgia’s a Southern state just like Mississippi. I cannot speak for Georgia, but I can speak for Mississippi on why we would never do that on a Sunday, or hold an election on a Sunday,” she said. 

“In God’s word, in Exodus 20:18, it says ‘Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,’ so that is my response to Sen. Schumer,” Hyde-Smith said.

The specific verse Hyde-Smith refers to is in the Hebrew Bible, known in Christianity as the Old Testament, and thus the “Sabbath” in Exodus is the same as it is in Judaism—beginning Friday evening and ending Saturday night. In other words, not Sunday

If Hyde-Smith is opposed to any sort of politics occurring on Sunday, she hasn’t demonstrated that reluctance before. After she was elected to the Senate in 2018, she was sworn in on a Sunday. She also held multiple campaign events on the Sunday before that election, according to the Daily Beast

Other Republicans attacked the election reform bill for even more tenuous reasons, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who flat-out lied that the bill “was designed to register” millions of undocumented people. Despite that, the bill is expected to move forward in some way, since Democrats have the Senate majority.  Even if the bill fails to clear committee, it can be brought to the floor by Schumer.

But without at least 10 Republican votes, the bill would require the Democrats to either end or restrict the use of the Senate filibuster, the procedure that requires 60 votes to pass legislation through the chamber. And on Wednesday, conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters that a new voting rights bill has to be bipartisan.

“We should not at all attempt to do anything that will create more distrust and division,” Manchin said, according to Bloomberg. “So I think there’s enough good that we can all come together. That’s what we should work on.”