Biden to push Senate rule change in bid to pass voting-rights law

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday will begin an effort to weaken rules that allow a minority group of senators to kill proposed laws, arguing democracy is in peril unless new voting-rights legislation passes, the White House said. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday will speak in Atlanta, a city with a majority Black population and capital of the battleground state of Georgia, where Democrats won two crucial U.S. Senate seats in January 2021.

This link claims that Republican erected barriers around the country in response to former President Donald Trump’s false allegations he lost the 2020 election because of voting fraud. Democrats say the state laws will make it harder for minorities to participate in elections.

“Tomorrow is an opportunity to speak about what the path forward looks like,” said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, before confirming that Biden is expected to address changing Senate rules.

Atlanta was the home of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader slain in 1968, who is remembered in a national U.S. holiday on Jan. 17.

Biden is expected to support changing filibuster rules that require 60 senators to back most legislation, including voting rights bills that do not have that many supporters. The specifics of Biden’s plans were not clear.

Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who represent the more conservative states of West Virginia and Arizona, say they want to protect the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to ensure bipartisanship.

Republicans have said they support keeping the filibuster because it gives minority lawmakers a voice in policymaking.

In October, Biden said the United States should “fundamentally alter” the Senate filibuster on certain issues.

He has signaled he would support requiring dissenting members to speak on the floor to delay a vote on a bill, a step up from the current system where they can just note their opposition.

The so-called “talking filibuster” would require senators to physically take the floor and likely speak for hours to halt legislation.

Democrats have also discussed voting on rule changes that would only apply to the voting rights bills or requiring at least 41 senators in the 100-member chamber to block legislation.

Biden and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have huddled over the legislative strategy for months, starting before Biden publicly acknowledged his support for weakening the filibuster on voting rights during an October CNN town hall.

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Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist who is traveling to Atlanta to attend the Biden speech, said he has warned the White House that half-measures on voting rights will not work.

“This is a defining moment, not just for the president, but for the country and the future of democracy,” Sharpton told Reuters.

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Comments (1)

  • Biden spoke in the Senate in 2005 against ending the filibuster. What changed? So did Chuck Schumer, who said it put the Senate “on the precipice” of a constitutional crisis, as “the checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option.” Other leading Democrats also denounced prior moves to end the rule as destroying any hopes for political consensus. Barack Obama denounced the rule as a racist device back when he was a member in the Senate and condemned its elimination as an obvious effort to establish party control by shifting “the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.” He added, “If the majority chooses to end the filibuster and if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only become worse.” Four years ago, 29 Democrats signed a letter along with dozens of their Republican colleagues that urged the Senate leadership to preserve the 60-vote requirement on most types of legislation. Not only did red-state Democrats sign that letter but progressives did too, including senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand. And as the 2020 presidential race got underway, Democratic candidates competing for the party’s most liberal voters balked at ending the filibuster. “I will personally resist efforts to get rid of it,” Booker said. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he was “not crazy about getting rid of the filibuster.” Only because they are in control now, and they do not want to lose it.

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