by Alexandra Jeffs, Colleen Long and Jeff Amy
ATLANTA (AP) – Raising his hand for emphasis, President Joe Biden on Tuesday challenged senators to “stand up against voter suppression” by changing Senate rules to pass a voting rights law that has been called for in Republican debate and debate. Withholding votes.
Biden told a crowd gathered on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta that he had been in quiet talks with senators for months on two bills — a lack of progress that drew criticism from his own party workers.
“I’m tired of being silent!” He shouted to the crowd to cheer.
In his remarks, Biden called for the civil rights fight of the 1960s. He likens past mistakes to overturning elections through the Capitol riots a year ago and passing a series of GOP-backed laws after former President Donald Trump lost in 2020 and then falsely claimed widespread voter fraud. Biden chastised Republicans for falling in line behind Trump’s election lies.
“Today, we call on Congress to do what history will judge,” Biden said. “Pass the Freedom to Vote Act.”
Biden’s speech was loud, blunt and clear, referring to new efforts to limit voting access as “Jim Crow 2.0.” For the first time, he directly advocated for an end to the Senate’s vote-blocking tool called the Filbuster for debating and voting on elections and voting rights legislation. While his attention draws more national attention to further debate, it is unclear what effect his new fire will have.
Current rules require 60 votes to pass most legislation – a threshold that Senate Democrats alone cannot meet because they have just a 50-50 majority with Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties. Republicans unanimously oppose voting rights measures.
There aren’t even enough Democratic votes to change the Senate’s rule. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin threw more cold water on the idea Tuesday, believing any change should be made with substantial Republican buyouts. And no Republican senators are willing to sign.
“Not a single Republican has shown the courage to stand up to a defeated president to defend Americans’ right to vote,” Biden said. “Not one. Not one.”
Congressional Democrats have written voting legislation that would herald the biggest change in US elections in a generation by removing barriers to voting created in the name of electoral security. The law would also reduce the influence of big money in politics and limit partisan influence on the depiction of Congressional 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.
Republicans say the changes are not aimed at fairness but to give Democrats an election advantage.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused Biden of enacting new voting laws “the brutal racial hatred of Jim Crow segregation to smear states.”
And it’s coming from “a current president of the United States who pledged to lower the temperature and unite America,” McConnell said.
Even if Democrats remove obstacles to passing the law, it may be too late to counter the voting restrictions passed in 19 states after Trump’s 2020 loss and his lies — many in the GOP. Embraced by – that the election was stolen through voter fraud.
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.
“It matters to all of us,” Biden insisted. “The goal of the former president and his allies is to deny the franchise to anyone who voted against him, which is simple.”
The president spent decades in the Senate, and he spoke with regret about how much it had changed for the worse, calling it “the shell of his former self.” He spoke of an era sometime back when an issue like the right to vote would never have been so viciously partisan.
He recalled working with separatist lawmakers in the Senate to get the law passed and getting it signed into law by Republican presidents. But now, filibuster is also frequently used to stop the debate of certain laws.
“How do you want to be remembered?” He asked his former Congress colleagues.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y. The U.S. has set next Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the deadline to consider passing voting legislation or revising the rules. “The next few days, when these bills are voted on, will be a turning point in the history of this country,” Biden told his audience.
“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not bow. I will not move,” he declared. “I will defend the right to vote, our democracy, against all enemies foreign, yes and domestic. The question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?
Biden also visited Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once came out of the pulpit. When Martin Luther King III laid a wreath at the tomb of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, he stood still.
Some voting rights advocates boycotted Biden’s speech out of frustration at Washington’s inaction. Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, known for her relentless voting rights work, said she left the program because of scheduling conflicts, which she did not explain further.
King said in a statement that he was delighted to host Biden, but he also supported those who chose to skip the speech.
“We’ve seen what’s possible when President Biden uses the full weight of his office to deliver bridges,” he said, referring to Biden’s successful push for a $1 trillion infrastructure spending deal. Happened. “And now we need to see him do it for the right to vote.”
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 participating in the riots at the US Capitol. Promoted separately.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who spoke before Biden on Tuesday, warned that the binding of new state laws means there is “a danger of becoming accustomed to these laws, at risk of adjusting these laws as if they were normal.”
“There is nothing out of the ordinary about a law that makes it illegal to give water or food to people standing in long voting lines,” she said, to cheers.
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 the state’s top 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, the state’s 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.
Amy reported from Atlanta. AP Congressional correspondents Lisa Mascaro and Brian Slodisco contributed to this report.