President Biden takes on Republicans in all out battle for US voting rights

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Joe Biden was set on Tuesday (Jan 11) to defy Republicans and back a controversial Senate rule change to force through voting rights reforms that he says are crucial to saving US democracy.

Coming off a powerful speech last week to mark the Jan 6 anniversary of an attempt by Donald Trump’s supporters to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Biden will argue in the Georgia state capital Atlanta that Congress needs to pass laws protecting voter rights.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden will say, according to an excerpt of the speech distributed by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand.”

Democrats accuse Republican state legislatures of enacting a spate of local laws restricting the voting rights of minorities and curtailing early voting and mail-in voting in an effort to suppress Democratic support.

However, Republicans describe the Democratic push as an attempt to manipulate the election landscape by switching power to the federal authorities.

The Republicans are unanimous in opposing the two bills up for debate in the Senate. Ordinarily, that opposition would ensure the bills’ death.

Democrats have only 50 votes in the evenly split Senate and under the filibuster rule, which requires a supermajority of 60 for many votes, they would need support from 10 Republicans.

Biden has been reluctant to mess with the filibuster, given warnings from Republicans that removing the supermajority requirement will push the Senate into all-out conflict, with no bipartisanship at all.

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Suspending the filibuster for a particular issue is possible, but happens so rarely it is dubbed the “nuclear option.”

Biden, citing the extreme urgency of fixing the US electoral system, now appears ready to bow to powerful internal party demands and give his blessing.

Lifting the filibuster would require unanimous Democratic support. If achieved, that would then allow the party to pass the two voting rights bills with simple majorities.

Saying that “abuse” of the filibuster power has “injured” the Senate, Biden “supports… changing the Senate rules,” a White House official told reporters on condition of anonymity.


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