President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head David Weil: Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time Biden's voting rights gamble prompts second-guessing MORE in a moment of brutal honesty on Thursday admitted that his push to enact changes to voting laws and the Senate’s filibuster rule may be doomed.
“The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” Biden said after leaving a more-than-hour-long meeting with Senate Democrats to persuade them to change the Senate’s rules.
“I hope we can get this done but I’m not sure,” he said.
Biden pledged to keep fighting for election reform and voting rights legislation even if Republicans again block an effort to move legislation this weekend.
“Like every other major civil rights bill that came along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try the second time,” he said.
Biden warned that failure could result in “election subversion.”
“If we miss this time and the state legislative bodies continue to change the law not as to who can vote but who gets to count the vote, count the vote, count the vote — it’s about election subversion, not just whether or not people get to vote,” the president said, his voice rising with passion.
“Who counts the vote? That’s what this is about, that’s what makes this so different from anything else we’ve ever done,” he added.
“I don’t know that we can get it done but I know one thing, as long as I have a breath in me, as long as I am in the White House, as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures [are] moving,” he told reporters before stepping away from a microphone without taking follow-up questions.
Centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announced on the Senate floor moments before Biden’s meeting with the Democratic caucus that she will not support a change to the Senate’s rules to circumvent a GOP filibuster of voting rights legislation
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has also said repeatedly that he does not support weakening the Senate’s filibuster rule with a party-line vote to help pass election reform legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), however, would not admit a likely defeat after meeting with his colleagues.
“The president made a powerful and strong and impassioned presentation for us to get this done and we are going to do everything we can to pass these two bills,” Schumer said, referring to the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Manchin after the meeting praised what he called Biden’s “wonderful” speech.
“The president gave an extremely — very passionate, very good speech. It was very human and it was very touching. It was very good and it was very historic,” he said.
Asked if Biden’s words had changed his mind at all about not supporting a Senate rules change with a simple-majority vote, Manchin simply replied: “He just did an excellent job.”
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats' filibuster gambit unravels Biden: 'I don't know whether we can get this done' Biden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat MORE (D-Mont.), another key centrist, said Biden emphasized the importance of passing voting rights legislation.
“The message in there was to get this done,” he said. “That was his message.”
Tester said he expects the votes to take place in the next few days despite the stated opposition of Sinema and Manchin.
Asked what’s next after the votes fail, as they are expected to, Tester replied, “That’s a question for Chuck, I don’t know,” referring to Schumer.
This story was updated at 3:21 p.m.