News

Watch: Biden delivers remarks on voting rights

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden plans to use a speech in Georgia Tuesday to throw his support, for the first time, behind changing the Senate’s filibuster rules to allow action on voting rights legislation, calling it a moment to choose “democracy over autocracy.” But some civil rights activists, proclaiming themselves more interested in action than speeches, say they plan to stay away.

Biden on Tuesday will pay tribute to civil rights battles past — visiting Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once held forth from the pulpit, and placing a wreath at the crypt of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King — before turning to Tuesday’s challenge.

NewsNation will livestream Biden’s Tuesday afternoon remarks in the player above.

With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., setting up Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the deadline to either pass voting legislation or consider revising the rules, Biden is expected to evoke the memories of the U.S. Capitol riot a year ago in more forcefully aligning himself with the effort.

Biden plans to tell his audience, “The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation.”

“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,” he’ll say, according to prepared remarks. “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?”

A White House official, previewing the speech on the condition of anonymity, said Biden would voice support for changing the Senate filibuster rules to ensure the right to vote is defended — a strategy Democrats have been looking to the president to embrace. The LA Times reports Biden’s move underscores the pressure the president is facing from his base to do something about Republican-backed state laws that restrict access to the polls before the November midterm election.

Some voting rights advocates planned to boycott the speech and instead spend the day working. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, known for her untiring voting rights work, also was skipping the event.

So far, Democrats have been unable to agree among themselves over potential changes to the Senate filibuster rules to allow action on voting rights, despite months of private negotiations. The Hill reports to change the rules, Democrats need total unity from all 50 of their members, something they don’t yet have. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) both support a supermajority requirement for legislation, while others, including Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), haven’t yet taken a position.

Many Democrats say the rule change would apply only to issues grounded in constitutional rights such as voting, but Republicans and others say it would inevitably be extended to other legislation, diminishing the overall power of the filibuster, according to the New York Times.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki rejected some activists’ complaints that Biden hasn’t been a strong enough advocate.

“I think we would dispute the notion that the president hasn’t been active or vocal. He’s given a range of speeches, he’s advocated for voting rights to pass,” she said. “We understand the frustration by many advocates that this is not passed into law, yet. He would love to have signed this into law himself.”

But laws have already passed in at least 19 states that make it more difficult to vote. Voting rights groups view the changes as a subtler form of the ballot restrictions like literacy tests and poll taxes once used to disenfranchise Black voters, now a key Democratic constituency.

And Republicans who have fallen in line behind Trump’s election misinformation are separately promoting efforts to influence future elections by installing sympathetic leaders in local election posts and backing for elective office some of those who participated in the violent Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol a year ago.

Georgia is at the center of it all, one of the key battleground states in the 2020 elections. As the votes were being recounted, Trump told a top state election official he wanted the official to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss. The state’s votes nonetheless went to Biden, and both of its Senate seats went to Democrats as well.

Then last year, the Republican governor signed a sweeping rewrite of election rules that, among other things, gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials. That has led to concerns that the Republican-controlled state board could exert more influence over the administration of elections, including the certification of county results.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

close