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It's time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech

WorldJan 12, 2022 03:30PM ET
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© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden waves as he returns via Marine One to the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque     

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland

ATLANTA (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday made a full-throated appeal for U.S. voting rights legislation stalled in Congress, saying Democratic lawmakers should rewrite Senate rules to overcome Republican opposition.

In a speech designed to breathe life into the fight to pass federal voting laws and convince skeptical Democrats of his commitment, Biden called many Republicans cowardly and committed to changing the U.S. Senate "filibuster" to pass legislation.

Calling it a "battle for the soul of America," the Democratic president put the voting rights effort on par with the fight against segregation by slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Former President Donald Trump maintains the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats through voter fraud, despite investigations' finding no supporting evidence. Since then, Republican lawmakers in 19 states have passed dozens of laws making it harder to vote. Critics say these measures target minorities, who vote in greater proportions for Democrats.

Biden on Tuesday said Republicans must choose which side of history they want to be on, as he contrasted civil rights heroes with the country's most ardent white supremacists.

"Do you want to be on the side of Martin Luther King or George Wallace?" Biden asked, referring to the segregationist former Alabama governor.

His tone echoed remarks on the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. Capitol, reflecting a new White House calculus after a year focused on working with Republicans. Supporters of Trump were attempting "a coup" on Jan. 6, 2021, Biden said Tuesday.

"Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America's right to vote," Biden said. "Not one."

Before Biden spoke, there was a moment of solemnity as he and Vice President Kamala Harris stood before King's gravesite, with King's family standing nearby, heads bowed. Biden and Harris later spoke on the shared campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, two historically Black schools.

Jesiah Osbourne, 21, a senior at Morehouse who gives Biden mixed reviews overall, said he credits the president for pushing for a cornerstone civil right even in the absence of a clear legislative path. "It's not going to happen overnight," he said. "There's no unity."

Many activists say Biden should have done more during his first year in office to push for reforms, and some, including Georgia's Stacey Abrams, did not attend his speech.

Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he spoke to Abrams, and despite a schedule mix-up, they are "on the same page."

"The President deeply understands that Congress must pass" the voting-rights bills "by whatever legislative means necessary," said Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia.

FILIBUSTER CARVE-OUT

Biden wants to build public support for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bills would make Election Day a holiday, register new voters and strengthen U.S. Justice Department oversight of local election jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.

Both bills have languished in the Senate under united opposition from Republicans, who argue they would impose questionable national standards on local elections.

Biden said if no breakthrough on the legislation can be achieved, lawmakers in the Senate should "change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this."

The filibuster is a parliamentary maneuver effectively requiring a 60-vote majority in the Senate for passage of most bills, instead of a simple majority.

"Sadly, the United States Senate, designed to be the greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self," Biden said.

Republicans criticized Biden's proposal as overreach.

"What the Democrats have coined a 'voting rights' bill is really just a partisan, political power grab. And now they want to eliminate the filibuster in order to advance this terrible legislation, which would only compound confusion in our election process," Senator Mike Crapo said after Biden's speech.

It was Biden's most direct plea to date for the Senate to change its rules. Democrats, with only narrow control of the chamber, do not currently have the votes for such a maneuver.

Biden said he had had quiet conversations with lawmakers about the legislation in recent months, but "I'm tired of being quiet."

Newly passed laws in Republican states could impact as many as 55 million Americans, the White House said.

Georgia was a battleground state in the 2020 election, and Democrats won two crucial U.S. Senate seats there that gave them effective control of the chamber. Last year, the Republican-led state legislature approved sweeping voting restrictions 4. The Justice Department sued, saying the law infringes the rights of Black voters.

Democrats are girding themselves for tough 2022 congressional elections that could strip them of their majority and the chance to change federal voting laws.

It's time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech
 

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Comments (18)
durmus aydin
durmus aydin Jan 12, 2022 1:09PM ET
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inflation and covid 19 architect. poor old man..
Forex Harbingers
Forex Harbingers Jan 12, 2022 10:47AM ET
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Anymore, I can only laugh at this ridiculous political rat show anymore.
DJ Car
DJ Car Jan 12, 2022 2:37AM ET
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I dont see why we shouldn't require ID's to vote and eliminate ballot harvesting or unmentioned drop off voting. Bidens "voting rights" actually promotes fraud, not fair elections.
simone scelsa
simone scelsa Jan 12, 2022 2:37AM ET
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And voting without ID is not allowed in any other country that allows voting.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jan 11, 2022 11:26PM ET
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Who is the real pres? Biden keeps saying ‘President Harris’
Red Riley
Red Riley Jan 11, 2022 11:11PM ET
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omg please
Michael Mcdonough
Michael Mcdonough Jan 11, 2022 10:27PM ET
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I would say cheap used car salemen but that would be disservice to used car salemen! Pathetic man..
Patrick Turner
Patrick Turner Jan 11, 2022 10:19PM ET
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Anything that Joe Biden desire is that of self interest and partisan politics protecting his gang of thugs.
Tyler Phillis
Tyler Phillis Jan 11, 2022 10:19PM ET
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Self interest? I would suggest that you check your premises. Nothing about Pres. Biden - implicit or otherwise - suggests a person acting in a selfish way. His words and his actions suggest no self…
Nordin Mohamad
Nordin Mohamad Jan 11, 2022 8:50PM ET
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after more than 200 years still struggling on vote right and yet claiming as the democratic global leader and punishing others that are not inline to so call democracy....? what a joke..
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Jan 11, 2022 8:16PM ET
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That was the most historic eloquent speech unmatched by any other US President. Lol!!!
John Nguyen
John Nguyen Jan 11, 2022 7:19PM ET
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it's time to fix the .... country.
Elephan Mann
Elephan Mann Jan 11, 2022 5:59PM ET
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I didn't know somebody was standing at the polling stations not allowing someone to vote who is legally able to. Can somebody provide a link to the news story where a legal US citizen was denied the right to vote? Surely there must be an epidemic of these stories for Democrats to be pushing the issue so hard, I would just like to read one of them.
Chris Cummins
Chris Cummins Jan 11, 2022 5:59PM ET
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Google voting lines in Mississippi. And do you think the poor can take the day off like the rich? Wake up?
John Laurens
John Laurens Jan 11, 2022 5:41PM ET
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Complete hypocrite! Georgia has extremely accommodating voter laws. Basically, if you have a pulse there, you can vote. This is just more race baiting and shameless attempts to buy minority votes by the dems. So sad.. so obvious.. not even slick about it anymore..
Mox Mox
Mox Mox Jan 11, 2022 4:56PM ET
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let's go old man vrandom
Thomas Simpson
Thomas Simpson Jan 11, 2022 2:37PM ET
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The election reform report of 2005 clearly identified mail in ballots as a danger to the integrity of an election. Georgia has a more accommodating election law than Bidens Delaware.
Michael Mcdonough
Michael Mcdonough Jan 11, 2022 11:53AM ET
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Its called the Constitution thank goodness…Biden in Georgia to promote rigged elections in the future…watch the post game interviews of game last night….great kids and life is tough but hard work pays off. There’s hope after all !
andy matalobos
andy matalobos Jan 11, 2022 10:18AM ET
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The Republicans want to count empty red districts versus actual voters....this is the reason that Republicans presidents have only won the majority of the population vote in 2 elections in the last 39 years......in a true and real democracy, majority rules. the electural voting system is a big scam.
John Laurens
John Laurens Jan 11, 2022 10:18AM ET
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Too bad we are NOT a democracy.. and for VERY GOOD REASON!
Chris Cummins
Chris Cummins Jan 11, 2022 10:18AM ET
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John Laurens  Melting snowflake? I like watching you meltdown.
BigPoppa Jcamp
BigPoppa Jcamp Jan 11, 2022 9:47AM ET
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Voting rights reform lol. so full of it. I have a right to know that my vote is not being negated by a fraudulent ballot, a non- citizen, or a dead person. How about making voting secure. It's racist to think people with brains cannot get an ID. We all know why Dems do not want voter ID. Fairness is not their objective.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Jan 11, 2022 9:47AM ET
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"I have a right to know that my vote is not being negated by a fraudulent ballot, a non- citizen, or a dead person."  -- yes you do, but of course that's completely different than automatically accusing the election is fraud because you don't like the results.....but of course you knew that
Bradley Jeko
Bradley Jeko Jan 11, 2022 9:47AM ET
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***Hillary Clinton enters the chat***
John Laurens
John Laurens Jan 11, 2022 9:47AM ET
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Tre Hsi  go home!
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Jan 11, 2022 8:31AM ET
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Like some people are too stupid to get a valid photo ID or sign an absentee ballot.
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Jan 11, 2022 8:31AM ET
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In reality, they are not. To think so is racist in itself.
John Laurens
John Laurens Jan 11, 2022 8:31AM ET
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Stephen Fa  LMFAO ~ there in lies the rub.. Dems want this because minorities can't get IDs, but to say so is racist. Once again, the dems feel entitled to have their cake and eat it too.. Which is it? Are they smart enough to leagally prove who and what they are, or are they NOT? Answer the question flakes!
 
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