Biden To Increase Pressure On Senate Over Voting Rights

The Significance of the Voting Rights Act in the US 1:04

(CNN) – US President Joe Biden will travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to deliver an important speech on the right to vote, to increase pressure on reluctant senators as Democrats face pressure to pass two laws. slopes that almost every Republican on Capitol Hill opposes.

Biden will travel to Georgia along with Vice President Kamala Harris, whom he appointed to lead the administration’s work on voting rights. While in Atlanta, the two will lay a wreath at the gravesite of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and visit the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, according to the White House. Changing the obstructionist rules in the Senate, which require 60 votes to end debate on the legislation, will be a major topic of the day, and specifically of Biden’s speech.

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“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, they will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I am,” Biden will say. , according to an excerpt of his comments published by the White House. “I will not give up. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all foreign and domestic enemies. So the question is where will the institution of the United States Senate be located?”

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The president’s speech in Atlanta is the latest of his recurring calls for the nation’s voting rights to be strengthened. Throughout the first year of his presidency, Biden has delivered several voting speeches, including in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the centennial of the city’s racial massacre; the graduation ceremony from South Carolina State University; at the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, in Washington, and at the National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia.

Other details of Biden’s speech and the defense of the vote

During his speech in Georgia, which will take place on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, Biden will “advocate vigorously to protect America’s most fundamental right – the right to vote and have your voice counted freely, fairly and freely. Safe choice that is not tainted by partisan manipulation, “White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

“It will make it clear to the former district (of the late Rep. John Lewis) that the only way to do that is for the Senate to pass the Voting Freedom Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” added Psaki.

In his speech, Psaki said that Biden “will describe this as one of the rare moments in the history of a country when time stands still and the essential is immediately separated from the trivial. And we have to make sure that January 6 does not mark the end of democracy but rather the rebirth of our democracy, where we defend the right to vote and have that vote be counted fairly, not undermined by supporters who fear who they voted for or attempt to reverse an outcome. “

Without changing the obstructionist rules, it is unclear how any of the bills Biden wants to pass will be carried out. During Atlanta’s comments, Biden is expected to mention the rule change. He previously expressed support for making an exception to obstructionist rules to pass legislation on the right to vote.

A White House official said changing the filibuster rules to pass legislation on the right to vote is necessary to make sure “this basic right is upheld.”

“Because the abuse of what was once a little-used mechanism that is not in the Constitution has greatly injured the body, and its use to protect extreme attacks on the most basic constitutional right is abhorrent,” said the official.

Legislation on voting in the Senate

The Senate is expected to assume voting rights in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set a January 17 deadline, Martin Luther King Jr.Day, for the Senate to vote on a rule change if Republicans continue to block voting rights legislation. .

During Tuesday’s speech, Biden also plans to describe in detail what new laws in some states restricting access to voting are doing.

“He is very focused on ensuring that the American people understand what is at stake here. Sometimes, we are all shorthand for legislation, shorthand for what we are talking about,” Psaki said. “Protecting the fundamental right to vote means that he will also speak out about what the changes have meant in states like Georgia across the country.”

His visit to Atlanta, which takes place less than a week before MLK Jr.Day, comes amid pressure from advocates calling on Biden to more clearly spell out a path to passage of the rights bills. electoral.

Several voting rights groups issued a letter saying that Biden and Harris should not visit Atlanta without a concrete plan to pass voting rights bills immediately. On Monday, a coalition of voting rights groups in Georgia announced that they will not attend events related to Biden’s visit.

“We don’t need another speech. What we need is a plan,” Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, told reporters Monday. “We will not attend the speech that the president will give tomorrow.”

It’s unclear if Georgia’s prominent leader Stacey Abrams – arguably the Democratic Party’s leading advocate for voting rights after using her 2018 gubernatorial loss to Republican Brian Kemp – will attend. After the election, Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization that advocates for the protection of voters across the country, and this year she is running again for governor.

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Biden discussed voting rights during his speech last week to recognize the first anniversary of the January 6 uprising in the Capitol Building, and said former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies are trying to subvert the US election.

“Right now, in state after state, new laws are being drafted, not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not just to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost. ”Biden said last week.

“Instead of looking at the 2020 election results and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided that the only way to win is to suppress their vote and subvert our elections,” he said Biden. “That’s wrong. It is undemocratic. And frankly, he’s anti-American. “

The president said later in the speech that “we have to be firm, determined and inflexible in our defense of the right to vote and that that vote be counted.”

Republicans aligned with Trump in several states are pushing at the state level to change voting procedures, conduct partisan investigations of the latest presidential race and take more control over the electoral machinery.

The president plans to use Georgia as an example for these states, the White House official said.

In his speech, Biden will highlight “that after Georgians voted decisively for new leadership in 2020, Republicans in the legislature decided they could not win on the merits of their ideas and instead passed a voter suppression law that it focused on voting by mail, limited precincts in areas that did not vote as they wanted, and empowered supporters in the state legislature to manipulate local electoral boards, “the official said.

– CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Dan Merica and Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.

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