On Tuesday, in Georgia, with less than 10 months until the 2022 midterm elections, President Joe Biden was calling for a limited exception to the Senate filibuster, making his biggest push to date for a national voting rights bill. He was calling for changes to the Senate filibuster rule so Democrats and civil rights advocates could preserve ballot access.
During the remarks made on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, it was Biden’s most forceful plea yet for election reform and endorsing the altering of Senate rules “whichever way they need to be changed” to bypass Republican opposition to two voting-rights bills in the Senate.
Biden said in his speech, “Sadly, the United States, designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body, had been rendered a shell of its former self. It gives me no satisfaction in saying that as an institutionalist, as a man was honored to serve in the Senate. But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threats to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote, let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has vowed to force a vote on changing the filibuster by January 17, Marting Luther King Jr. Day, should Republicans continue to oppose the bills.
While Biden’s strong statement of support for filibuster reform was a notable sign of the President, and his party’s, evolution on the issue, it’s unlikely to change Democrats’ difficult legislative reality. Changing the filibuster rules in the Senate requires 60 votes to end debate on legislation and was the major focus of Biden’s address Tuesday.
In 36 years as a Senator, and early in his presidency, Biden was hesitant to push for an exception to the rules around the filibuster, a mechanism by which a Senator can block essentially any legislation unable to receive 60 votes in its favor. But Biden has changed his mind in the face of Republican opposition to voting rights legislation, including the Freedom to Vote Act, which Democrats hope to pass this month. With the filibuster intact, the GOP will be able to block that bill, just as they have blocked other Democratic priorities, from legislation to investigating the January 6 insurrection to efforts to bolster unions.
Despite Biden’s endorsement and Democrats’ renewed push, the chances of passage are slim. Any change to the Senate rules would require all 50 Democrats to sign off, and at least two Senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have opposed the idea.
Without changing the rules, it’s unclear how either bill Biden wants passed, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, will get done.
Republicans, meanwhile, oppose the proposed federal voting laws as what they deem a government overreach. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Democrats are promoting a “fake outrage” and “fake hysteria” on voting rights “ginned up by partisans.”
Nineteen Republican-led states passed 34 laws to restrict access to voting last year, fueled by former President Donald Trump and his supporters’ allegations that the 2020 election was fraudulent. There was no evidence of widespread voting irregularities as courts have dismissed more than 60 GOP-led lawsuits, alleging fraud.
Many of the new 34 laws take aim at mail-in voting, implement stricter voter ID requirements, reducing voting days and limit ballot drop boxes. Is there anything wrong with any law that would reduce voter fraud of any kind, and shouldn’t President Biden, and any other politician want all elections to be void of fraud?