“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I’m tired of being quiet,” Biden said, slapping his hand on the lectern.
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.
During the remarks, made on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, Biden called for the rules to be changed. He had previously expressed his support for making an exception to the filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation but expressed more flexibility on Tuesday.
“I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking actions on voting rights,” he said.
The Senate is expected to take up voting rights in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a deadline of January 17 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — for the Senate to vote on a rules change if Republicans continue to block voting rights legislation.
Harkening back to his campaign slogan, the President told attendees in Atlanta that “the battle for the soul of America is not over” and he directly tied the passage of voting rights legislation to the January 6 insurrection.
Biden recalled “the violent mob” that stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and former President Donald Trump, who he said “sought to win through violence what he had lost through the ballot box, to impose the will of a mob, to overturn free and fair elections, and for the first time in American history, to stop peaceful transfer of power.”
“They failed. They failed. But democracy’s victory was not certain. Nor is democracy’s future,” Biden continued.
“This is the moment to decide”
The President said he was delivering his speech in Atlanta “to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup, a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.”
Biden also voiced frustration that no Republicans have come around to supporting the voting rights legislation, suggesting it was a break from past precedent when both parties rallied behind the issue.
“The vice president and I have supported voting rights bills since day one of this administration, but each and every time Senate Republicans have blocked the way,” he said. “Republicans oppose even debating the issue. You hear me? I have been around the Senate a long time. I was vice president for eight years. I’ve never seen a circumstance where not one single Republican has a voice that’s ready to speak for justice now.”
The President recalled working with the segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond, who he said eventually came around to supporting voting rights bills.
“Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote. Not one. Not one,” Biden said.
He said the narrow majority Democrats hold in the US Senate made achieving anything more difficult but that this moment, like other consequential moments…