Biden slams state voting restrictions as '21st-century Jim Crow'

President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE didn’t hold back in his speech Tuesday afternoon on the urgent need for voting rights protections, labeling the onslaught of restrictive voting laws in states with Republican-controlled legislatures modern-day Jim Crow discrimination. 

“They want to make it so hard and inconvenient that they hope people don't vote at all,” Biden said in Philadelphia, referencing an effort in Texas to pass a new elections law. “That’s what this is about. This year alone, 17 states have enacted — not just proposed but enacted — 28 new laws to make it harder for Americans to vote, not to mention nearly 400 additional bills Republican members of the state legislature are trying to pass.”

“The 21st-century Jim Crow assault is real,” Biden added. “It’s unrelenting. And we’re going to challenge it vigorously.”

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Biden’s speech came as pressure grows on Democrats to get their voting rights bills, which would combat many of the laws that have been introduced across the country this year, through Congress and to the president’s desk.

The president described new voting laws as “pernicious,” citing efforts in some states to install partisan officials to oversee the certification of election results.

“Some state legislators want to make it harder for you to vote,” Biden said. “And if you vote, they want to be able to tell you your vote doesn’t count for any reason they make up. They want the ability to reject the final count and ignore the will of the people if their preferred candidate loses.”

Several GOP-led state legislatures have enacted legislation in recent months that critics have described as voter suppression but that Republicans insist are merely attempts to strengthen election security while former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE and his allies spread false claims that the 2020 election was rigged or fraudulent.

Georgia earlier this year passed a law that expands early in-person voting hours, requires additional voter ID to complete mail-in voting, reduces the number of ballot drop boxes in some locations, and makes it a crime for anyone other than election workers to provide food or water to people standing in line.

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Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would implement limits on early voting, curbside voting and drop boxes, prohibit round-the-clock voting centers and voting facilities in outdoor structures such as parking garages, and scrap straight-ticket voting.

Eyes are currently on the Lone Star State’s Democratic lawmakers who blocked the legislature from having a quorum and voting on the proposals by walking out earlier this week, the second time they’ve done so.

The group of state lawmakers arrived in Washington, D.C., Monday night and on Tuesday held a press conference outside the Capitol, urging congressional lawmakers to act.

But the For the People Act and the John LewisJohn LewisHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Budowsky: High stakes drama for Biden, Manchin, Sinema Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act, the two major elections bills prioritized by Democrats, appear to have hit a dead end in Congress. No Republicans in the Senate have indicated they would support either bill, both of which would require at least 60 votes to overcome the legislative filibuster.

“Joe Biden and Democrats have an election power grab playbook: lies and theatrics,” Danielle Alvarez, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. “Meanwhile, Republicans are engaged in state-led efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and polling shows Americans overwhelmingly support these laws.”

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Over the weekend, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested that an exception to the Senate filibuster be made to allow bills related to voting rights to bypass the procedural rule by simple majority. 

Such an asterisk wouldn’t be unprecedented; confirmation votes can pass by simple majority as well as the process of budget reconciliation that Democrats used to get Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed.

Some Democratic lawmakers voiced support for the idea on Tuesday, though it is unclear whether moderate Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Biden goes after top 1 percent in defending tax hikes MORE (D-Ariz.) — both of whom are against axing the filibuster — would support the compromise like Clyburn’s.

Additionally, the White House has given no indication Biden is prepared to back a carveout for voting rights, and the president made no mention of the issue in his speech on Tuesday. The lack of call for a change to the Senate rules is likely to disappoint many progressives and voting rights advocates who have framed the issue as one that must be addressed through any means necessary before it’s too late.

“This was a pathetic pile of political pablum, not the launch of a campaign to save our democracy,” tweeted Ezra Levin, co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible. “You can't win the fight if you refuse to even NAME the main obstacle to winning.”