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Biden calls on Congress to pass voting, elections reform bills

Biden calls on Congress to pass voting, elections reform bills
© Washington Post/Pool

President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE in his address to Congress on Tuesday called on lawmakers to pass a sweeping set of elections and voting reforms that hold the potential to reshape the U.S. political landscape, from how campaigns are financed to the laws governing the decennial redistricting process.

In his remarks to a joint session of Congress, Biden boasted that the 2020 election had seen the highest turnout in modern history despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of being celebrated, he said, the right to vote “is being attacked.”

“If we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote,” Biden said. “More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic ever.”

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He called on Congress to quickly pass H.R. 1, a wide-reaching elections reform bill already approved by the House, and the John LewisJohn LewisAlabama museum unveils restored Greyhound bus for Freedom Rides' 60th anniversary Is America slipping to autocracy? Washington must confront the 'Amazon economy' MORE Voting Rights Act, which would strengthen or reinstate parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  

“Congress should pass H.R. 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send them to my desk right away,” Biden said. “The country supports it, and Congress should act now.”

H.R. 1 seeks a broad overhaul of the nation’s political systems. Among the proposals included in the measure is a mandate for states to use nonpartisan redistricting commissions to draw congressional lines, as well as new financial disclosure requirements for super PACs and political nonprofits, often dubbed “dark money groups.”

The bill would also create a set of national standards for voter registration and mail-in balloting. One provision would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, something that former President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE never did, despite decades of precedent.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in the past decade. Most notably, the bill would reinstate “pre-clearance,” the requirement that certain states seek federal approval when making changes to their voting laws.

While polling suggests that the bills have broad support among Democrats — and have some report from a few Republicans — they face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Democrats hold only a one-vote advantage due to Vice President Harris's ability to break a tie.

H.R. 1 has already passed the House but has run into trouble in the upper chamber. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act has not yet been formally introduced this year.