by Alexandra Jeffs, Colleen Long and Jeff Amy
ATLANTA (AP) – President Joe Biden will use a speech in Georgia to support changing Senate rules that have blocked voting rights legislation, saying it is time to choose “democracy over autocracy.” But some civil rights groups will not be there, protesting what they say is the administration’s inaction.
As he turns to his current challenge, Biden is paying tribute to the civil rights fight on Tuesday—visiting Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was once out of the pulpit. Were, and were laying a wreath in the crypt of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with D.N.Y., set next Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the deadline for either passing voting legislation or revising the rules surrounding the chamber’s filibuster blocking devices. Considering doing, Biden is expected to evoke those memories of the US Capitol riot in aligning himself more strongly with the voting rights effort a year ago.
Biden plans to tell his audience, “The next few days, when these bills are voted on, will be a turning point in this country.”
“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not bow. I will not budge,” he would say according to prepared remarks. “I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand? ,
Current rules require 60 votes to pass most legislation – a threshold that Senate Democrats alone cannot meet because they have only a 50-50 majority with Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties. Republicans unanimously oppose voting rights measures.
Biden has landed more carefully in the debate than in the past. He is under heavy political pressure to achieve a breakthrough, although it is not clear what practical effect he might have.
Not all Democrats are on board with changing the filibuster rules. Even if Democrats remove the odds of passing voting rights laws, it’s too late to counter the sweeping voting restrictions passed in 19 states after the 2020 loss of former President Donald Trump and his lies. Maybe – embraced by many in the GOP – that the election was stolen by voter fraud
Some voting rights advocates plan to boycott Biden’s speech. Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, known for her tireless voting rights work, was also skipping the event. Meanwhile, the White House sent an unusually long list of attendees to the speech. The aide said Abrams had a conflict, but did not explain further, although he did tweet in support of the president.
Biden said there was a scheduling mix-up between the two prior to their visit, but they had spoken and “everyone was on the same page.”
Asked what risk he was taking politically by speaking out if there weren’t enough votes to change the rules, he said: “I risk saying no to what I believe. That’s the risk I take. It’s those defined. One of the moments. It’s true. People will be judged on the basis of where they were before the vote and where they were after the vote. History will judge us.”
Voting rights advocates in Georgia and across the country are concerned about what could happen in 2022 and beyond. They see the changes in many states as a subtle form of ballot restrictions such as literacy tests and election taxes, which were once a major Democratic constituency, used to disenfranchise black voters.
“We are beyond speeches. At this point, all we need is federal law,” said Black Votes Matter co-founder Latosha Brown. And it can’t happen too soon, she said.
Republicans who have fallen behind Trump’s election misinformation are trying to influence future elections by installing sympathetic leaders in local election positions and supporting alternative office to some of those who participated in the riots at the US Capitol a year ago. separately promoting the efforts of
Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who is the church’s senior pastor, will visit Biden and who has made history as the first black senator elected in Georgia, said that “whatever may happen will shine a bright light on the urgency.” Will continue to shine. This issue is important.”
Warnock, who accompanied Biden in Air Force One to Georgia, said he believes Biden understands that “democracy is the only one affected by this all-out attack that we’re seeing by state legislatures across the country, And this is a moral moment. Everyone should come forward.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed complaints from some activists that Biden has not been a strong enough advocate.
“We understand the dismay of many advocates that this has not yet been passed into law. He himself would prefer to sign it into law,” she said.
Georgia is at the center of it all, one of the major battleground states in the 2020 election. After the votes were counted and recounted, Trump told a top state election official that he wanted officials to “find” enough votes to make up for his loss. The state vote nonetheless went to Biden, and both Senate seats went to the Democrats as well.
Last year, however, the Republican governor signed a sweeping rewrite of election rules that, among other things, gives state election boards new powers to interfere with county election offices and remove and replace local election officials. This has given rise to concerns that the Republican-controlled state board could exert more influence over the administration of the election, including the certification of county results.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Riffensperger, who dismissed Trump’s vote change suggestions, said during a news conference Tuesday that policies pushed by Biden and the vice president would “undermine the integrity of our elections.”
He said the pair would try to “change long-standing rules so that they could push for a partisan bill that rigged the election rules in favor of Democrats. Make no mistake, it’s about the right to vote.” There is an attempt to undermine electoral security under the guise.”
Congressional Democrats have written voting legislation that would herald the biggest change in US elections in a generation, by removing barriers to voting in the name of electoral security, reducing the influence of big money in politics and the partisan influence on Congress’s portrayal. will limit. districts.
The package would create national election standards that would trump state-level GOP laws. It would also restore the Justice Department’s ability to police election laws in states with a history of discrimination.
Amy reported from Atlanta. AP Congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.