Biden to ‘forcefully advocate’ for voting rights in Tuesday speech

President Joe Biden gives remarks in Statuary Hall of the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, January 6, 2022 to mark the year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.
Greg Nash

President Biden on Tuesday will “forcefully advocate” for Congress to pass two pieces of legislation to strengthen voting rights and will discuss potential alterations to the Senate filibuster during what he views as a pivotal moment for the country, the White House said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that the president will “describe this as one of the rare moments in a country’s history where time stops and the essential is immediately ripped away from the trivial.”

“We have to ensure Jan. 6 doesn’t mark the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance for our democracy, where we stand up for the right to vote and have that vote counted fairly,” Psaki told reporters while previewing the remarks that Biden is set to deliver in Georgia.

Psaki confirmed Biden would discuss potential alterations to the Senate filibuster, which requires that a bill get 60 votes to advance in the chamber, and she said he would seek to underscore the stakes at a time when GOP-held legislatures are advancing bills to make it harder for some groups to vote.

He will also tie his remarks to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to try and thwart the certification of Biden’s electoral victory. In a speech last week marking the anniversary of the attack, Biden spoke of the importance of passing voting rights legislation. 

“I would say that the president will certainly be clear about what is at stake here and how important it is to protect people’s fundamental rights across the country,” Psaki said when asked about Biden’s tone for Tuesday.

“He felt that speaking to this warranted a moment where he was going to give a full speech on this. That’s why he’s going to Georgia, a place with enormous history on civil rights issues, unfortunately enormous recent history on efforts to suppress the vote.”

Biden’s speech in Atlanta alongside Vice President Harris comes just after the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as the administration seeks to ramp up pressure on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which advocates argue would strengthen voting protections and security and access to the ballot box for all Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he will push for reforms to Senate rules on Jan. 17 if there is no progress on passing either bill. Schumer and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) clashed on Tuesday over the filibuster amid the push for election legislation.

A coalition of civil rights groups in Georgia last week warned Biden not to bother coming to the state on Tuesday without a concrete plan for passing voting rights legislation. Psaki on Monday acknowledged Biden’s ability to do so is contingent on rallying the support of lawmakers.

“His plan is to sign voting rights legislation into law. That requires a majority of senators to support it,” she said. “Even if there are changes to the Senate rules, which is something the president has expressed an openness to.”

Tags Charles Schumer Jen Psaki Joe Biden John Lewis Mitch McConnell

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