Biden Explodes “Un-American” Voting Limits; Texas Democrats Act
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – President Joe Biden said on Tuesday preserving voting rights was an urgent national ‘test of our time’, but offered few concrete proposals to address it. Texas Democrats have taken their own dramatic steps to thwart Republicans’ efforts to tighten voting restrictions in their state.
Biden, who has proclaimed that protecting access to ballots was the central cause of his presidency, has come under heavy criticism from his allies for not doing more, despite political headwinds and stubborn Senate calculations. have limited its ability to act. Despite his resounding words on Tuesday, he avoided any mention of trying to change the Senate filibuster rule that stands in the way of federal legislation.
Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden called the state’s efforts to reduce the accessibility of voting as “un-American” and “undemocratic” and launched an offensive against his predecessor, Donald Trump, who baselessly alleged misconduct in the 2020 election following his defeat. . Biden called the passage of congressional proposals to override new state voting restrictions and reinstate parts of the voting rights law that have been restricted in recent years by the Supreme Court “a national imperative.”
Yet instead of raising the possibility of tackling the filibuster, he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the declining hopes for the bills, saying he would launch a nationwide campaign to provide voters with information about the rule changes. and restrictions ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
“We need to prepare now,” the president said.
Biden’s sharp rhetoric has garnered praise from progressive groups in his party, but has done little to quell the growing pressure on him to stand up for the filibuster replacement. “The president thinks we have to make the filibuster work as before,” said White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who added that Biden had not changed his opposition to his total elimination. .
Biden’s remarks came a day after Texas Democrats decamped to Washington in a bid to deny their GOP-controlled legislature the quorum necessary to pass a bill imposing further restrictions on voting in the state. .
The lawmakers, arrived Monday evening in the national capital, said they were prepared to stay in Washington – out of the reach of Texas law enforcement – until a special legislative session ends early next month. Their action marks another dramatic confrontation over voting in America.
Standing near the steps of the United States Capitol for a press conference ahead of a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats vowed to “stay out and kill this bill.”
However, State Representative Chris Turner, the leader of the House Democrats in the Texas Legislature, said their efforts would ultimately be in vain unless Congressional Democrats take bolder steps to overcome a Republican Senate blockade of the vast federal ballot bill. The legislation, known as the For the People Act, would create national voting standards that could override some of the restrictions that have been approved or are advancing in Republican-ruled states, including Texas.
“We cannot hold back this tide forever. We save time. We need Congress and all of our federal leaders to use this time wisely, ”Turner said.
Several states have passed new voting restrictions, and others are debating them, as the GOP seized Trump’s false allegation of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election as justification for restricting access to ballots .
“No other election has ever taken place under such scrutiny, with such high standards,” Biden said of the 2020 race.
Some GOP-led states have struggled to roll back the expansion of postal voting that was put in place in the last presidential election due to fears of COVID-19. Others have tried to tighten voter identification requirements and reduce the times and locations for advance polls and ballots.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will continue to call special sessions until next year if necessary to pass his state’s legislation, and raised the possibility that Democrats will be arrested when they return at their home.
When asked if Biden thought Texas lawmakers were doing the right thing by leaving the state, Jean-Pierre said “he applauds their courage.” She said that, from an administration’s point of view, the Texas bill is an “attack on democracy.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who leads the administration’s efforts on voting rights, praised Texas lawmakers during a meeting with them in Washington.
“Standing up for the franchise for the American people is as American as apple pie,” she told lawmakers, comparing their actions to women’s suffrage and civil rights marches.
Capitol Hill Democrats have attempted to respond with a sweeping federal voting and election bill that Senate Republicans have united to block. Most Republicans also rejected a separate bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would reinstate sections of the voting rights law that the Supreme Court weakened.
These roadblocks put more emphasis on Senate rules on filibustering, which, if left in place, would appear to be an insurmountable roadblock, requiring 60 votes in an equally divided 100-member chamber to even evoke controversial legislation.
Moderate Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have also so far expressed reluctance to change Senate rules.
Many Democrats have expressed frustration at the lack of more pressure from the White House to change the filibuster, with civil rights activists pointing out that Biden was elected with broad support from blacks whose votes are often endangered by voting restrictions.
Reverend Al Sharpton, who attended Biden’s speech, called it a “good speech,” but also said, “I told him I was going to stick with him about the filibuster.” He described Biden as elusive on the matter.
Biden, himself a Senate veteran, offered his support for the filibuster changes. But he did not put all his political weight behind the issue, deeming it counterproductive in legislative and political struggles over the vote. He and Harris met with some of the civil rights leaders last week, who made it clear they were waiting for a legislative solution.
“We are back to the wall. It’s time. We’re out of time, ”said Sherrilyn Ifill, chair of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, after the meeting. “I said to the president: we will not be able to get out of this threat to black citizenship.”
“Administrative action, litigation, and organization are essential in combating this, but these tactics do not replace Congressional action on the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of the Common Cause group, said Tuesday. “As the President steps up his use of the Chair of intimidation and engages with Senators, we urge him to clarify that the Senate minority’s use of filibuster – a relic of Jim Crow, according to the words of former President Obama – must never be seen in the way of free voting.
While not giving up hope for legislative action, the West Wing turned to other measures to protect the vote, including legal remedies pursued by the Justice Department and actions in the Individual states, according to officials. The focus will also be on increasing voter turnout, with aides highlighting Democrats’ success in securing votes last year at the height of the pandemic.
Officials concede, however, that it is always more difficult to vote in a non-presidential election year.
AP writer Darlene Superville contributed from Washington.