Biden’s best ally begs him to end filibuster for electoral reform

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Biden could “pick up the phone and say [Sen.] Joe Manchin, ‘Hey, we should make an exception.’ Clyburn said, referring to the centrist West Virginia Democrat who resisted filibuster reform. “I don’t care if he does it into a microphone or on the phone, do it.”

Clyburn’s comments are the latest attempt by Top Democrats to find a way around Republican opposition to their electoral reform legislation. Biden himself is about to embark on a more aggressive campaign to try to get public opinion behind these bills. He is traveling to Philadelphia on Tuesday to deliver a speech on “his administration’s” actions to protect the sacred and constitutional right to vote, “the White House said. His remarks will come days after the president met with leaders of national civil rights organizations in the White House, who called on Biden to use his voice, influence and power at this time.

But the the president’s ability to fight directly restrictive voting laws being considered or passed by Republican-led states across the country are limited. His party runs a 50-50 50-50 Senate with a slim majority in the House. Biden himself has so far expressed little desire to change legislative filibuster to the degree likely necessary to push through more of his agenda. Added to these obstacles are recent Supreme Court rulings that have weakened the ability of the Department of Justice to prosecute states for election laws deemed racially discriminatory.

If the two Congress voting bills do not reach Biden’s office soon, Clyburn said: “Democrats can say goodbye to the majority.”

“I can see in a state like Georgia – where people stepped up in January in a way that no one thought they ever would – I can see the disappointment of voters as far as [Sen. Rafael] Warnock would not be back, ”he added.

Responding to Clyburn’s comments, a White House official noted Biden’s respect and admiration for the congressman and the president’s support for verbal obstruction, which requires a senator or a group of senators either physically on the ground to block a bill. But Biden notably dodged questions about whether he thought it should take 60 votes against obstruction legislation or not.

Anxiety and frustration over the inability to advance voting rights legislation is growing not only among progressive activists, but also among civil rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers. Democrats who spoke to POLITICO said they believed a failure on this front would not only result in electoral losses, but would have a tangible impact on the country’s democracy if more Republican-led states adopted restrictions on access to voting.

Adding to this frustration is the recent Supreme Court ruling that dealt another blow to the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights lawyers and defenders I think the ruling will make it more difficult to prosecute new election laws passed by Republican-led states that limit access to the ballot.

“I hope the president gets a little more aggressive,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Who could lose his seat if Republicans decide to gerrymander the districts of Kentucky during the redistribution. “Obviously they have a very full plate and they try to cope with a lot of things [but] many of us believe that, especially after the Supreme Court ruling, we are really at a critical juncture in terms of protecting democracy.

Yarmuth added that Democrats have a “deep fear” of “what is happening in our democratic time. Not who wins in 2022, what happens to democracy. “

The Democrats’ signature election reform bill would expand early voting, ban partisan gerrymandering, among other changes that affect nearly every aspect of the electoral system. The second bill, named after the late Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) Would restore key sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to obtain the right to vote. ” prior approval of changes to the electoral law of the federal government. government.

“We have to have a federal legislative solution and we have to find a political way to get around the filibuster politically,” said Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Deputy chair of the House Judiciary Committee. In Dean’s home state of Pennsylvania, Republican state lawmakers are now calling for an Arizona-style audit of the 2020 election results.

Dean also said she hoped Biden would approve a filibuster exclusion for bills related to electoral reform.

“I hope the president will – like I said, I think the obstruction should be removed unless it is actually used for a debate that gets the conversation going on things,” said Dean. “But I hope the president will lead this.”

A White House official said Biden was actively pushing for both pieces of legislation and had deployed several agencies, the White House legislative team and senior officials to push for passage. Vice President Kamala Harris announced Thursday that the Democratic National Committee will invest $ 25 million to register, educate and vote voters.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday cited recent Justice Department action to increase funding and staffing for its civil rights division and Biden’s decision to appoint “two human rights activists. civic rights ”to important roles in the Department of Justice as proof of the administration’s dedication to publishing it.

Psaki said Biden’s speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday would not be about the legislative process but about a “moral obligation” to defend the right to vote.

But for many Democrats on and off the Hill, the whole ball game is the legislative process.

“If he’s serious about passing voting rights, then he should at least support the filibuster modification,” said Cliff Allbright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a group that has helped mobilize voters in Georgia and the southern states in 2020. “If he’s not willing to support this… all he has to do is tweet about voting rights – shut up. ”

There are only two ways Democrats can get the vote bills passed, Rep. Clyburn said: Either Manchin finds 10 Republicans to support a revised election bill and Bill Lewis, or the Democrats get rid of the filibuster.

Clyburn said he held a one-on-one meeting with Manchin and his staff around the time Manchin was making changes to the Democrats’ electoral reform bill. Clyburn told him, “I’m not asking you to remove the filibuster. … But what I’m telling you is that no one should have the right to obstruct my constitutional rights.

In the absence of a passage of filibuster reform, Democrats said they hoped to see more harsh legislative tactics and a political twist from Biden to push election bills forward.

“This is an existential crisis for democracy and the party that defends democracy,” said Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“When you read Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ, you see how the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would not have passed without his direct personal muscular intervention with some recalcitrant Democratic senators,” Raskin said. “It’s the historical model for doing this thing. And as a longtime senator and Senate student, I’m sure that analogy is on Joe Biden’s mind.


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