The US president is set to endorse changing filibuster rules to pass voting rights legislation during Georgia speech.
United States President Joe Biden will use a Georgia speech on voting rights to back a controversial change to the Senate’s filibuster rules, a White House official has said.
The official, who previewed Biden’s Tuesday speech to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the president, in support of passing federal voting rights legislation, would endorse changing Senate rules that allow a minority of 41 Senators in the 100-member chamber to block most legislation.
“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden will say in the speech, according to an excerpt of the speech distributed by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand.”
Voting rights advocates and some Democratic legislators have increasingly called for a change to the Senate rules as states across the country have passed voting legislation they say is restrictive in the wake of the 2020 elections.
At least 19 states have passed laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to voting access advocates, with some state legislators continuing to cite former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud to push new restrictions.
Meanwhile, Democrats are supporting two federal pieces of legislation that would represent the largest overhaul of US elections in a generation by striking down hurdles to voting enacted in the name of election security, reducing the influence of big money in politics and limiting partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.
The package would create national election standards that would trump state-level laws. It would also restore the ability of the Department of Justice to police election laws in states with a history of discrimination.
Biden will cite “repeated obstruction” by Republicans in supporting changing the rule, the White House official told reporters. He will not call for a complete elimination of the filibuster, but will instead seek changes catered specifically to passing the voting rights legislation.
Democrats and Republicans currently both have 50 seats in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris, who casts tie-breaking votes, giving Democrats a simple majority.
Despite Biden’s nod, all 50 Democrats in the Senate would need to unify behind the change, with several currently saying they are not convinced.
Meanwhile, some voting rights advocates continue to criticise the administration for being too slow to make domestic voting rights a priority.
They have said they will skip the speech on Tuesday, which will come after Biden visits several sites significant in the US civil rights movement, and will instead spend the day working.
“We’re beyond speeches,” LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Votes Matter, told the Associated Press news agency. “At this point, what we need, what we are demanding, is federal legislation.”