PHILADELPHIA (AP) – President Joe Biden declared preserving voting rights an urgent national “test of our time” on Tuesday but offered few concrete proposals to meet it. Texas Democrats took their own dramatic action to stymie Republican efforts to tighten ballot restrictions in their state.
Biden, who has proclaimed protecting ballot access the central cause of his presidency, has faced sharp criticism from allies for not doing more, though political headwinds and stubborn Senate math have limited his ability to act. Despite his ringing words on Tuesday, he avoided any mention of trying to alter the Senate ﬁlibuster rule that stands in the path of federal legislation.
Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden called state efforts to curtail voting accessibility “unAmerican” and “un-democratic“ and launched a broadside against his predecessor, Donald Trump, who baselessly alleged misconduct in the 2020 election after his defeat. Biden called passage of congressional proposals to override new state voting restrictions and to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act that were curbed in recent years by the Supreme Court “a national imperative.“ Yet, instead of raising the possibility of ﬁghting the ﬁlibuster, he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the fading hopes for the bills, saying he would launch a nationwide campaign to arm voters with information on rule changes and restrictions ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
“We have to prepare now,” the president said.
Biden’s sharp rhetoric drew praise from progressive groups in his party but did little to assuage the mounting pressure on him to throw his weight behind replacing the filibuster. “The president believes that we have to make the filibuster work the way it used to,” said White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who added Biden has not changed his opposition to eliminating it altogether.
Biden’s remarks came a day after Texas Democrats decamped for Washington in an effort to deny their GOPcontrolled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass a bill placing new restrictions on voting in the state.
The lawmakers, who arrived in the nation’s capital Monday night, said they were prepared to stay in Washington – out of the reach of Texas law enforcement _ until a special legislative session concludes early next month. Their action marks a dramatic new showdown over voting in America.
Standing near the steps of the U.S. Capitol for a news conference ahead of a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democrats promised to “stay out and kill this bill.” However, state Rep. Chris Turner, the leader of the Texas Legislature’s House Democrats, said their efforts would ultimately be futile unless congressional Democrats take bolder action to overcome a Senate Republican blockade of the sweeping federal voting bill. The legislation, known as the
For the People Act, would create national standards for voting that could roll back some of the restrictions that have been approved or are advancing in Republican-led states, including Texas.
“We can’t hold this tide back forever.
We’re buying some time. We need Congress and all of our federal leaders to use that time wisely,” Turner said.
FALSE FRAUD CLAIM
Several states have enacted new voting restrictions, and others are debating them, as the GOP has seized on Trump’s false claim of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election as a rationale for curtailing ballot access.
“No other election has ever been held under such scrutiny, such high standards,” Biden said of the 2020 race.
Some GOP-led states have worked to roll back the vote-by-mail expansion that was put in place in the past presidential election due to COVID-19 fears.
Others have tried to strengthen voter identification requirements and curtail hours and locations for early voting and ballot drop-offs.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said he would keep calling special sessions through next year if necessary to pass his state’s legislation, and raised the possibility of Democrats facing arrest upon returning home.
Asked whether Biden thinks the Texas legislators are doing the right thing by leaving the state, Jean-Pierre said “he applauds their courage.” She said that in the administration’s view, the Texas bill is an “assault on democracy.”