Biden Blasts New State GOP Voting Restrictions
Category: News & PoliticsVia: texan1211 • 3 weeks ago • 5 comments
By: Alexa Corse, Tarini Parti (MSN)
© Evan Vucci/Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA—President Biden blasted efforts in Republican-controlled states to tighten voting rules and called on Congress to advance stalled legislation in a speech Tuesday, as he faces pressure from some Democrats and activists to do more to curb GOP-backed election-law changes.
Mr. Biden likened the efforts in some states to enact tougher election rules to Jim Crow laws that prevented Blacks from voting and labeled them as undemocratic. He also criticized Republicans who oppose Democratic-sponsored voting legislation in the Senate.
"Hear me clearly: There's an unfolding assault taking place in America today—an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote and fair and free elections," Mr. Biden said. "An assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are as Americans."
"We've got to act," Mr. Biden said as he ended his speech at the National Constitution Center, knocking his fist against the podium.
Voting issues have become a top priority in both parties this year. Republicans say the changes they have pushed in states such as Georgia and Texas, which include new limits on mail ballots and more identification requirements for voters requesting a mail ballot, are aimed at improving election security. They also say the federal government shouldn't interfere with voting rules set by states.
Democrats say the GOP changes in the states are efforts to make it harder to vote, particularly for minority groups.
The Biden administration has limited options to alter voting rules without Senate Democrats getting rid of the filibuster—a rule that requires 60 votes in order to pass most legislation—and is looking outside of Washington in hopes of building pressure on lawmakers ahead of next year's midterm elections.
"We'll be asking my Republican friends in Congress, in states and cities and counties to stand up for God's sake and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our elections and the sacred right to vote," Mr. Biden said. "Have you no shame?"
Mr. Biden particularly criticized changes that would curb the authority of local election officials, which he said represented partisan efforts to subvert elections. One of the most controversial changes has been in Georgia, where a new voting law would enable the State Election Board to, under certain conditions, remove and replace local election superintendents. Proponents say the board could only take such action if there is a clear record of wrongdoing or incompetence in a county and that it will help hold local election officials accountable.
Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week met with civil rights groups following setbacks to Democrats' voting efforts. The Supreme Court, in a decision divided along ideological lines with conservatives in the majority, recently upheld a pair of Arizona rules governing the collection of mail ballots and disallowing votes cast in the wrong precinct. Senate Republicans also blocked Democrats from moving ahead with a sweeping package of voting changes, which called for 15 consecutive days of early voting nationally, automatic voter registration and more.
This week, a fight over voting access escalated in Texas, where dozens of Democratic state lawmakers left the state to deny the Republican-controlled Legislature the quorum necessary to pass voting legislation during a special session. They flew to Washington and were planning meetings with Democratic senators in Congress to push for a federal voting bill. Ms. Harris also plans to meet with the lawmakers, a White House official said.
Several Democrats have called for changing Senate rules to get around the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, but they would need the support of all 50 Democratic senators to do it, and some centrists in the party have resisted such proposals.
Mr. Biden has said he would support changing the filibuster to require that senators must be present and talking on the floor to block bills, but he doesn't want to get rid of it. He didn't call for altering the filibuster Tuesday.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, leader of the civil-rights group National Action Network, said he was glad that Mr. Biden directly addressed race and voter suppression in his speech, but he said he is still waiting for Mr. Biden to talk about the filibuster. Mr. Sharpton said he questioned the president about that after his speech. "He said, 'Well, we're working on our position on that,' and I said, 'Well, I'm gonna stay on that.' "
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.), who has proposed creating a carve-out from the filibuster for legislation related to constitutional issues including voting rights, said on Monday that it was up to senators to change the chamber's rules, not the president. "I just believe that the president is committed to getting this done," said Mr. Clyburn, the House Democratic whip and a veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus, in an interview.
Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.) said the president set the tone through his speech for Democrats to build a coalition of support and to put pressure on Senate Republicans. "The way forward is now on the grass-roots organizing—block by block, every neighborhood, every community," he said. "This has to be done from the bottom up."
Republicans were united in opposition to the sweeping Democratic voting bill, known as the For the People Act. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections."
Some proposals initially included in the legislation, including measures that would effectively nullify state voter ID requirements and would allow absentee voting for any reason, also faced opposition from Democratic centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.).
A separate Democratic proposal named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), which more narrowly focuses on reinstating parts of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court previously overturned, also faces a challenge in the 50-50 Senate.
Mr. Biden signed an executive order in March telling federal agencies to expand voter-registration efforts, and the Biden Justice Department said it would expand its civil-rights division. Last month, the Biden administration sued Georgia over its new voting law.
Former Republican President Donald Trump has claimed that voter fraud caused his election loss to Mr. Biden, though Mr. Trump's own Justice Department found no evidence of widespread problems that could have changed the result. Mr. Biden pushed back against efforts by Mr. Trump and other Republicans to question the results, calling such claims the "big lie" and saying that recounts confirmed his victory.
Write to Alexa Corse at firstname.lastname@example.org and Tarini Parti at Tarini.Parti@wsj.com