Biden to Cast Election-Law Votes as ‘Turning Point’ for Nation in Speech

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The president plans to address Atlanta with Democrats in the Senate who lack votes in the Senate and shy away from support to replace the filibuster

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While House and Senate Democrats support the proposals, the bills require 60 votes to advance 50-50 in the Senate. Both are expected to fall well short of that mark due to opposition from GOP lawmakers, prompting a parallel effort by Democrats to change the filibuster process to ease their path. But two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Cinema of Arizona, have opposed such an approach, leaving any progress uncertain.

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In his speech on Tuesday, Mr Biden will debate Democrats’ case that new federal laws are needed to counter recent state measures, which party lawmakers portray as a threat to access to elections, especially minorities. for voters. Republicans characterize the proposals as federal redundancies and say Democrats are painting a distorted picture of states’ efforts to bolster electoral integrity.

Mr Biden would say the vote “will be a turning point in this country”, according to excerpts released by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand,” reads Mr. Biden’s speech. “And so the question is, where will the institution be? [the] United States Senate stand?”

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A White House official said Mr Biden would discuss his support for changing Senate rules if needed to pass legislation related to the election. Previewing the comments, the official said Mr Biden would ask Republicans to support the bills. The aide made no specific mention of the filibuster putting pressure on holdout Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) has set a January 17 deadline for the Senate to act on election legislation before a possible Senate rule change. He has admitted that the gambler faces an uphill battle.

A bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, would make election day a national holiday, mandate 15-day early voting and require all states to allow mail-in voting, among other changes. The second, named after the late Representative John Lewis (D., Ga.), would give the federal government more control over state voting processes after Supreme Court decisions weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed Washington to rule out Control over change. States with a history of racial discrimination.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Monday that Democrats are using election bills as an excuse to undermine the filibuster, which has also blocked other Democratic laws.

“Leading Democrats say they want to sabotage the Senate because a sinister anti-poll conspiracy that is spreading in America is, of course, completely fake. It doesn’t exist,” he said. Federal rules “would supersede the common-sense voting laws that citizens across the country have chosen for their states,” he said.

The presidential address comes less than a week after he delivered a loud speech on the anniversary of the Capitol riots on January 6, in which he blamed former President Donald Trump for creating a “web of lies” with his false claims of election fraud. . He and other Democrats have tried to draw a straight line between claims of fraud, the January 6 riots, and the need for new federal election laws.

“I think they need to tell the American people that filibuster has its place as it relates to policy but has no place on constitutional issues,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D., SC). 3 House Democrat and a top Biden ally. Mr Clyburn began urging a carving out for the voting-rights law last summer.

Republicans, who have repeatedly blocked election-related legislation, said Democrats were playing their hand over.

Replacing the filibuster” is no different than what they’re trying to do with elections — it’s all about gaining power, maintaining power, and — if they can’t get it reasonably — play. In the midst of changing the rules,” Sen. Bill Haggerty (R., Tenn.) tweeted.

Georgia is among a group of states where GOP lawmakers have pushed for more restrictive voting laws after the 2020 election, partly citing the need for tighter election protections. Following an increase in voting by mail during the pandemic, laws include limits on mail ballots and drop boxes. In Georgia, Texas and Florida, Republican lawmakers added new ID requirements to vote by mail, among other changes.

New law in Georgia enables state election boards to remove and replace local election superintendents under certain conditions. Republicans say this would require obvious wrongdoing or incompetence in a county. Opponents worry that such a change could make it easier for partisan officials to intervene.

Activists and Democratic leaders said they were encouraged by the tone and urgency that Mr Biden displayed in his January 6 speech, but some want the president to adopt a more belligerent style ahead of the midterm election.

Cliff Albright, executive director of Black Voters Matter, said: “His speech gives a signal that maybe he’s getting it, but I don’t think so far that he or his White House team fully recognized the threat to democracy.” Is.” The group that signed a letter saying Mr Biden should not come without a specific plan to enact voting law in Georgia should not.

Some of those groups later said they would boycott the Biden program.

Citing past Democratic leaders, Mr. Albright said: “Lyndon Johnson will get it done. As Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid will get it done.”

A spokeswoman said Stacey Abrams, a voting-rights activist and former Georgia Democratic minority leader now running for governor, is struggling and will not attend the speech. “He refused to bow down until the job is done,” he tweeted thanking Mr Biden.

Republicans and other defenders of the filibuster say the rule encourages bipartisan cooperation and limits policy swings from one Congress to the next when power changes hands.

Mr Biden, who served in the Senate for decades, has been reluctant to call on pessimistic progressives to change. But late last year, he said he was prepared to make an exception to the 60-vote limit for voting-rights bills. To change Senate rules, Democrats would need the support of 50 Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris severing any ties.

Other floated changes include putting more responsibility on the minority party to block a bill that requires 41 senators to be present and no vote instead of 60 senators being present and voting yes. Democrats are considering eliminating the filibuster threshold for a motion to move forward on a bill, allowing debate and amendment, but leaving a second filibuster threshold in place.

To get 50 votes, party leaders must bring together both Mr. Manchin and Ms. Cinema. Mr Manchin says any change must involve a buy-in of Republicans, which is unlikely. Ms. Cinema has said she will oppose any change in the 60-vote limit.

Write Alex Leary at [email protected] and Eliza Collins at [email protected]

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