In an impassioned speech on protecting voting rights in America, Joe Biden declared he’s “tired of being quiet”, and said he backs changing Senate rules that have stalled voting rights legislation.
The U.S. President used his speech in Georgia on Wednesday to insist the “battle for the soul of America is not over.”
Biden told a crowd in Atlanta that he’d been having quiet conversations with senators for months over the two bills — a lack of progress that has brought his criticism from activists in his own party.
The president blamed Republicans for refusing to protect voting rights and for holding up the stalled legislation.
“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.
Current Senate rules require 60 votes to advance most legislation — a threshold that Democrats can’t meet alone because they only have a 50-50 majority with Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties. Republicans unanimously oppose the voting rights measures.
Biden spent decades in the Senate, and he spoke of how much it’s changed for the worse, calling it “a shell of its former self.” He spoke of an era not long ago when an issue like voting rights would never have been so rancorously partisan.
He recalled working with notorious segregationist lawmakers in the Senate to get legislation passed and for it then to be signed into law by Republican presidents. But now, the filibuster has been used rampantly to block even the debating of some legislation.
Biden told his audience: “The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation.”
“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch,” he declared. “I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign, yes and domestic! And so the question is where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”
Not all Democrats are on board with changing the filibuster rules. Conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin threw cold water on the idea Tuesday, saying he believes any changes should be made with substantial Republican buy-in.