‘Tired of being quiet’, Joe Biden tells his party senators to pick a side

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Atlanta Tuesday on the grave threat to the US democracy system from what Biden called voter suppression and electoral subversion. This is a time and a theme, he said, by which leaders will be judged by history.

“Do you want to side with Dr. (Martin Luther) King or George Wallace?” I ask. “Do you want to side with Abraham Lincoln or (Confederate President) Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy ”.

It was strident, poignant, persuasive, passionate.

But if you are the type of person who likes to pre-empt the likely outcome of any development, then a much shorter but no less strident speaker delivered the verdict you were seeking in the Capitol building in Washington earlier that day. There, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters that he would not side with Biden to overcome Republican efforts to block any legislation on the right to vote. “We need some good rule changes to make the place work better, but getting rid of the obstructionism doesn’t make it work better,” Manchin said hours before Biden spoke.

Which, unless you change your mind, kills any attempt to turn Biden’s towering rhetoric into action before it even begins.

Biden was aware of the problem: It is one he has become well acquainted with in the year that he has been president. “We have a 50-50 Senate,” he said, referring to the partisan makeup of that chamber. “That means we have 51 presidents.” That is, any senator can be the deciding vote. Recently, that means Manchin wields veto power, as he did late last year by killing, for now at least, the massive bill that forms Biden’s central economic agenda. As he now threatens to do with these democratic reforms.

The immediate problem is two bills that have passed the House of Representatives but are blocked in the Senate by Republican obstructionism, which would require a three-fifths majority of senators to pass. The filibuster rule itself could be changed or removed by simple majority vote, meaning that Democrats could do so without Republican support. But that rule change is something Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have long opposed. Biden has also objected. Up to now.

“I think the threat to our democracy is so serious that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” Biden said. If the legislation is blocked by an obstructionist, he continued, “we have no choice but to change the Senate rules, including removing the obstructionist for this.”

The dire situation he described was the result of two events, according to his accounting: the United States Supreme Court that weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to allow states to change electoral laws to suppress voting; and the big lie that Donald Trump has told that the 2020 elections will be riddled with fraud, which has convinced many Republicans that the rules should be changed to make voting more difficult and facilitate the annulment of electoral results that do not like. The combination of the two has led legislatures in at least 19 Republican-controlled states to pass laws restricting suffrage, making it easier for supporters to take on key electoral oversight functions, and manipulating entrenched party majorities in redistribution processes. districts and even attempting to allow states legislatures to revoke the will of the voters (as Trump demanded they do in 2020).

The two bills before the Senate, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, would restore some of the protections of the previous voting rights law, curb manipulation and change the rules of election financing. another invoice being discussed by the Democrats (including possibly Manchin) could amend the Electoral College Act to address some of the specific strategies Trump employed to try to overturn the 2020 results.

“They failed,” Biden said of the attempt by Trump and his supporters to prevent him from taking office. “But the victory of democracy is not certain, nor is the future of democracy.”

This was a continuation of the message he delivered last week, on the anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riots. The pair of speeches may be your two strongest as president. This was delivered in Atlanta, after laying a wreath in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. The location has a symbolic resonance on the issue of voting rights, as the home of King and Lewis, in a state that was the cradle of the civil rights movement and has been a battleground for voting rights continuously for more half a century.

But a group of prominent Georgia voting rights advocates deliberately declined to attend the speech, explaining on CNN broadcasts during the day that they want fewer poignant words in the face of symbolic undertones and more action. They suggested that the people who most need to hear Biden’s speech are in Washington: Manchin and Sinema and their colleagues, who have the power to put words into action.

Biden said he’s had those “quiet conversations” in DC for the better part of a year. “I’m tired of being quiet,” he yelled.

“All senators, Democrats, Republicans and independents, will have to declare what their position is, not only for the moment but for the ages. Will you oppose voter suppression? Yes or no? “He asked.

“Will you oppose electoral subversion? Yes or no? Will you defend democracy? Yes or no?”

His answers, he said, would be studied by future generations. “Each of the members of the Senate will be judged by the history of their position before the vote and their position after the vote. There is no escape. So let’s get back to work. ”


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