Protecting the right to vote in America is important enough to abolish the obstruction rule of the United States Senate to achieve it, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday during a speech in Atlanta.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have taken to the campus of Atlanta’s historically black University Center to garner public support for two voting bills stalled in the Senate.
With every Republican senator opposing the measures in the equally divided legislative chamber, none can get passage due to the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to act.
“The buccaneers have been militarized and mistreated,” Biden said. “The majority should rule in the United States Senate. ”
Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years, has long supported the filibuster rule, which has historically been used to secure bipartisan support before legislation can be passed.
But he said protecting voting rights is too critical to care about saving filibuster.
“The right to vote is the threshold of freedom of democracy,” he declared. “Without it, nothing is possible.
The Freedom to Vote Act, a complete overhaul of national voting rights laws, would set federal standards for elections, end the partisan redistribution that tends to perpetuate ruling parties in Congress and state legislatures, and reform campaign finance laws.
The narrower John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the late Atlanta congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, would strengthen and restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in response to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States for the past decade.
Specifically, Biden and Harris criticized Georgia’s overhaul of election laws that the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed last year.
Senate Bill 202 adds a voter identification requirement for mail ballots, limits the location of mail ballot boxes, and prohibits non-scrutineers from distributing food and drink to less than 150 feet from voters in line.
Georgia was among 19 laws passed by 34 states last year that Democrats say make it harder for Americans to vote, especially voters of color.
Harris urged viewers not to just protect voting rights.
“Over the past few years we have seen so many anti-voting laws that there is a danger of getting used to these laws as if they were normal,” she said. “There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to distribute food and water to people standing in a long electoral line.”
Georgia Republicans on Tuesday opposed Democrats’ characterization of the state’s new election law and criticized both bills in the US Senate.
Gov. Brian Kemp accused Biden and the Congressional Democrats of attempting an “unconstitutional federal election takeover” he vowed to oppose.
“Georgia is the ground zero for the Biden-Harris assault on electoral integrity,” Kemp said at a press conference shortly before Biden and Harris spoke. “[But] we refuse to be intimidated… until we step back.
“The Biden administration continues to carry out a blatant political attack on Georgia’s constitutional authority to regulate its elections,” added state attorney general Chris Carr. “The truth is that our electoral law strengthens security, extends access and guarantees transparency for all Georgians.”
Some voting rights groups in Georgia did not attend Tuesday’s presidential address, urging Biden and Harris to stay away from Atlanta until they come up with a specific plan to pass the bills. on voting rights in Congress.
“We don’t need any more photo ops,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “We need action.”
This story is available through an information partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.