President Joe Biden on Tuesday is expected to call for carving a partisan hole in Senate rules that would allow Democrats to control the country’s elections.
For the past year, Senate Democrats have been trying to either abolish or limit the filibuster, a Senate procedural rule that requires 60 votes in order for most legislation to pass. Democratic Sens. Jon Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have refused to abandon their opposition to chipping away at, or abolishing, the long-time Senate rule.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would use a speech at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College in Atlanta to cast the abolition of the filibuster as a pivotal point in the battle for democracy, ABC News reported.
In an excerpt of the speech released Tuesday morning, Biden president said the “next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” according to ABC.
“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch,” Biden says in the speech states. “I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is, where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that he plans a vote on the filibuster rules before Monday’s observance of Martin Luther King Day.
According to The New York Times, Biden will not call for total abolition of the filibuster, but wants to carve out an exception for Democratic elections bills that would cement federal control over elections.
Although Democrats Manchin and Sinema were last year’s roadblocks to killing the filibuster, Biden is expected to make Republicans the target of his speech by accusing them of “repeated obstruction.”
He is expected to say the filibuster has allowed “extreme attacks on the most basic constitutional right.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed a fight.
“Since Senator Schumer is hellbent on trying to break the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action would have immediate consequences,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement on Monday, according to the Times.
He was more explicit in a speech last week on the Senate floor, according to Fox News.
“The American people are not buying the nonsensical talk of ‘Jim Crow 2.0’ or a voting rights crisis,” McConnell said, according to Fox. “It’s not a ‘voting rights’ bill. It is a sprawling, sweeping takeover of our democracy.
“These changes wouldn’t bolster faith in our democracy or our institutions. It would do the opposite. It would be a civic wrecking ball. And that’s before you consider that Senate Democrats want to destroy our own institution to ram this through.”
Republicans say that any so-called “carve-out” for the elections bills Democrats support would sooner or later erode the filibuster.
Republicans also say that Democrats are trying to leapfrog Republican states whose election rules are not tailored in the fashion Democrats want.
Fox reported that Manchin and Sinema are likely to go on record supporting the bills that Democrats seek to pass, but have given no indication that they plan to change their position on the filibuster.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Sinema had doubled down on her opposition to killing off the filibuster during a lunch last week with Democratic senators. The Post cited as its source “a person familiar with her comments.”
Biden’s speech is being skipped by some Democratic activists in Georgia. According to a Fox report Tuesday, Stacey Abrams, the failed Democratic candidate for Georgia will not be attending.
Nsé Ufot, chief executive of the New Georgia Project, an officially “non-partisan” voting rights group, told The Washington Post she had more effective ways to spend time than listening to Biden. Her group will be doing another event at the George Capitol at the same time, the Post reported.
“If all they are doing is coming to give a speech, then I might have some Republicans to be fighting with at that time,” she told the Post.
“What we need is a plan. What we need are marching orders. How are we headed into the midterms? What posture will we have to adopt? And is it worth it to continue to seek federal protections for voting rights?”
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