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Biden’s voting rights speech may extend to issues of democracy itself

July 13, 2021

By Niels Lesniewski

Posted July 12, 2021 at 6:07pm

President Joe Biden heads to Philadelphia for what’s billed as a major address on voting rights Tuesday as Democrats from the Texas Legislature are in Washington lobbying for the same. The Texas Democrats left their home state Monday in a bid to deny a quorum to a special session for Republican-backed legislation that supporters say would protect election integrity. The Texas legislation would prohibit drive-through voting, limit sweeping distribution of mail-in ballot applications, and make other changes that Democrats argue would reduce access to the ballot box. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in Michigan on Monday for events including a voting rights listening session in Detroit, praised the Texas lawmakers for “showing extraordinary courage and commitment.” “I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans, and all Texans, to express their voice though their vote, unencumbered,” Harris said Monday. “They are leaders who are marching in the path that so many others before did, when they fought and many died for our right to vote.” During Tuesday’s speech, the president plans to connect voting rights and the ongoing effort of former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters to sow doubt about 2020 presidential election to the January insurrection. “He’s very focused on this speech tomorrow, one that he himself wanted to deliver. He’ll lay out the moral case for why denying the right to vote is a form of suppression and a form of silencing,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. “And how ... he will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal to continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of Americans to vote against the onslaught of voter suppression laws based on a dangerous and discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in assault on our Capitol.” In addition to continuing to advocate for Democratic legislative priorities on voting rights and campaign finance, Psaki said to expect a focus on a “need to work together with civil rights organizations to build as broad a turnout and voter education system, to overcome the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.” In recent public appearances and statements, Trump has fully embraced conspiracy theories and fraudulent narratives about the violent attack on the Capitol during the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. “We had a corrupt election. We had a rigged election. We had a stolen election. And that’s why you had over a million people march to Washington,” Trump said in a Sunday interview on the Fox News Channel. He provided no evidence to support his claims. Biden intends to speak directly to the claims of election fraud during his speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday. With Harris in Detroit Monday, Trump was calling for GOP primary challengers to Republicans in the Michigan Legislature who have affirmed the integrity of the state’s 2020 election, which delivered the state’s electoral votes to Biden. Biden, meanwhile, is facing renewed calls to back changes to Senate rules so that the legislative filibuster cannot be used to allow a minority of senators to block legislation affecting election law or other constitutional issues. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C, was recently quoted by Politico as saying the president “should endorse” such an effort, and outside groups on the left advocating for changes to the Senate rules and precedents on filibusters want Biden to go further in Tuesday’s speech. “It’s great to see President Biden step up and engage directly in what he is calling a ‘cause of his presidency,’ the fight to protect our democracy,” Fix Our Senate spokesman Eli Zupnick said in a statement. “But it won’t be enough to hear about what the Administration is doing on their own to blunt the attacks on our democracy— we need President Biden to make a clear and forceful call for voting rights legislation and to join President Obama, Rep. Clyburn, and millions of people across the country in demanding that the Senate eliminate the filibuster as [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s weapon of partisan obstruction.” Asked about Clyburn’s comments Monday, Psaki spoke to the reality of the vote-counting within the Senate Democratic caucus. Advocates of effectively changing the rules would need all 50 members of the caucus to agree. “I’m not here to provide a whip count for all of you, but that’s not where support currently stands. So the president’s view continues to be aligned with what he has said in the past, which is that he has not supported the elimination of the filibuster because it has been used as often the other way around,” Psaki said. The press secretary added that the White House had no new positions on any filibuster exceptions. In reality, any effort to narrowly tailor an exception to the legislative filibuster could be fraught, and potentially unworkable. For instance, a bid to eliminate the 60-vote requirement for constitutional policy questions like voting rights could also apply to a host of other topics, from clear issues of constitutional significance like gun rights and abortion to the tax code, since the power of Congress to levy taxes is itself within the Constitution. “He’s talked about his support for returning to the talking filibuster. He continues to support that,” Psaki said. “But he, again, believes that, as somebody who was in the Senate for 36 years, we need to continue to work to find a path forward to do hard things, even when they seem challenging, and that’s what he will do in this case.” Volume 0%

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