Biden spoke in Atlanta, focusing on passing two pieces of pending legislation opposed by nearly all Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a deadline of Jan. 17 – MLK Day – for the Senate to vote on a filibuster rules change if the GOP continues to block legislation.
Biden’s speech comes as Congress continues to trudge forward in its pursuit of voting rights legislation and a slew of states pass bills that restrict voting.
A coalition of voting rights groups in Georgia announced they would not attend Biden’s visit events, saying they want a plan and more action.
The White House states Biden will “describe this as one of the rare moments in a country’s history when time stops and the essential is immediately ripped away from the trivial. And that we have to ensure Jan. 6 doesn’t mark the end of democracy but the renaissance for our democracy, where we stand up for the right to vote and have that vote counted fairly, not undermined by partisans afraid of who you voted for or try to reverse an outcome.”
Biden has also planned to describe in detail what some states’ new laws restrict access to voting.
Early Tuesday morning, the White House sent out a message addressing Biden’s Atlanta speech.
“The President will forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American right: the right to vote and have your voice counted in a free, fair, and secure election that is not tainted by partisan manipulation,” press secretary Jen Psaki said. “He’ll make clear in the former district of (Rep. John Lewis) that the only way to do that is for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”
At least 19 states passed 34 laws that restrict voting in some way last year. A likely showdown looms in Congress this week over federal voting legislation.
Biden is not expected to call for the outright abolition of the parliamentary mechanism. Biden will be taking a political risk as he endorses a “carve-out” for voting rights measures.
Biden’s Tuesday remarks will directly address the filibuster and cite “repeated obstruction” by Republicans, an official who previewed the speech told The New York Times.
The president will address that the filibuster has protected “extreme attacks on the most basic constitutional right.”
While many Democrats and the Left are looking forward to the new filibuster changes and a change of voting rights, Biden’s speech alone will become a major gamble after a year where Democrats have struggled to pass key parts of his legislative agenda. The multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better Act has passed the House of Representatives but met a strict stall after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Hopefully, Biden’s proposal to attack the filibuster will be doomed to fail if both Manchin and Sinema do not support the filibuster reform. It is unlikely that any Senate Republican will break with their party and support the change.
Currently, voting rights have called on Democrats to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights (advancement) Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, but this may not be possible without filibuster reform. Some of those groups have said they will not attend Biden’s speech on Tuesday and criticized the administration’s perceived inaction thus far.
With the midterm elections quickly approaching in November and Republicans are aiming to take back the House and Senate. A win on voting rights might boost Democrats’ chances due to the chances of unregistered voters. But a defeat could potentially have negative consequences for the president’s party.
Hopefully, if the GOP regains one or both chambers of Congress, they could stymie Biden’s agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set a deadline of Jan. 17 – MLK Jr. Day- for senators to vote on changes to the rules if the GOP prevents the passage of voting rights legislation.
It remains to be seen if Manchin and Sinema will support such a change.