Courtesy: White House
By: Liam McCurry
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a bipartisan warning to lawmakers: history has not been kind to those who work to suppress the right to vote.
Despite his promise to challenge the voting restrictions in front of students and reporters at the Atlanta University Center Consortium on Jan. 11, those who support at least 33 state-level laws stemming voting remain defiant.
Also notably absent were leaders and activists from the voting rights movement.
Cliff Albright, a co-founder of Black Votes Matter, said he’s tired of words.
“What we need now is action,” he said on Twitter.
Biden, acknowledging his silence the previous year in the fight for equal voting rights, agreed. “I’m tired of being quiet,” he said.
Last year 19 states enacted laws that restrict voting rights. This year, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris said they are willing to fight back, by any means necessary, against attacks on voting rights in the United States.
What used to be a bipartisan issue has become increasingly partisan and in recent years the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Act of 1965 in a 2013 ruling, Biden said. The ruling allows states to alter their voting and election laws without prior approval from the federal government.
The recent laws subvert elections to “turn the will of voters into a mere suggestion,” he said.
Biden called the new laws Jim Crow 2.0 by promoting voter suppression and voter subversion.
Georgia is one of the 19 states that have made voting by mail or by drop box more difficult and with the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the state made the location fitting for the address, said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.
Biden, a self-proclaimed institutionalist, is willing to change Senate rules, specifically the “arcane” filibuster, to ensure two voting rights bills are enacted, he said.
Without amending the filibuster’s 60 vote threshold, Biden and company run the risk of having their voting rights bills obstructed and delayed by the filibuster and republican senators.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has shown support for changing the rules
“The filibuster has shut down debate,” he said, “It’s designed for people who want to say no.”
“That’s what the filibuster is all about. It’s stopping us from doing anything substantial on voting rights,” Durbin said.
Amending the Senate rules around the filibuster has created a major roadblock to success for Biden, particularly by two democratic members of the Senate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Although Sinema and Manchin support voting rights bills overall, they do not want to see the filibuster weakened.
Sinema made a statement Jan. 13 that all but killed proposed amendments to the Senate rules.
“I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said.
Biden spoke with Democratic senators on Jan. 13 to further convey his message, Psaki said.
In a midterm election year, Biden views this fight as a defining moment for his presidency.
“The battle for the soul of America is not over,” Biden said. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? John Lewis or Bull Connor? Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?
“This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy,” he said.