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Martin Luther King III: Biden, senators need to use same energy to pass voting rights as they did for infrastructure

Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

Martin Luther King III marked the national holiday celebrating his father on Monday with a call for President Biden and senators to ramp up their efforts to pass voting rights legislation and do away with the filibuster.

“To the president and United States senators, you were successful with infrastructure, which is a great thing,” King said before leading a Washington, D.C., march over the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, according to The Washington Post.

“But you need to use the same energy to ensure all Americans have an unencumbered right to vote,” King added.

King, who was joined by his wife Arndrea Waters King and their 13-year-old daughter Yolanda Renee, also participated in another march on Saturday in Phoenix.

President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law in mid-November, in one of the signature achievements of his first year in office. The Biden administration has struggled to find similar success with a $2 trillion climate and social spending package, and the president admitted last week that his push for voting rights legislation may fall short as well. 

“The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” Biden said after leaving a meeting with Senate Democrats last week to persuade them to change the Senate’s rules. “I hope we can get this done, but I’m not sure.”

Democrats are pressing forward with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which aim to counter voting restrictions in Republican-led states.

Biden has endorsed the idea of changing the Senate’s rules to pass the legislation with a simple majority instead of a 60-vote threshold, in order to overcome Republican opposition. However, Democrats would still need all 50 senators to remove the filibuster, and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are firmly opposed to such a change. 

“Sadly, the U.S. Senate, designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self. It gives me no satisfaction in saying that as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate,” Biden said in Georgia earlier this month.

“But as an institutionalist, I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills,” he added. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) kept the Senate in town this week in order to bring up the voting rights legislation. 

When the Senate reconvenes on Tuesday, Schumer is expected to move to tee up a vote on ending debate on legislation that merges the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

If that vote is blocked by Republicans as expected, Schumer has vowed that he will bring up a change to the Senate’s rules to try to get around the current 60-vote requirement for most legislation.

“Members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, particularly on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as this one, and we will proceed,” Schumer said late last week.

“And if the Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote, as we expect them to, the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules.”

Tags American infrastructure Charles Schumer Filibuster Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Kyrsten Sinema Martin Luther King III voting rights

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