Democrats have long pushed for voting rights legislation to expand provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act. A Senate rule, however, requires a two-thirds vote to advance most legislation and GOP use of the filibuster has been a major obstacle on the bill’s path through Congress.
US President Joe Biden said that he supports creating an exception to the filibuster in the Senate to make way for voting rights legislation that his party has struggled to pass.
In an interview with ABC News’s David Muir on Thursday, Biden asserted that he would back amendments to Senate rules “to accommodate major pieces of legislation without requiring 60 votes.”
“That means whatever it takes,” Biden said. “The only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster, I support making an exception on voting rights of the filibuster.”
Such an exception, should it be created, would help Democrats advance over staunch Republican opposition to the landmark voting rights legislation. GOP members have lambasted the voting rights bill as a Democratic attempt to “take over how every American vote all over the country.”
Among initiatives offered by Democrats are making an election day a holiday so voters can more easily access voting stations: expanding legacy mail- and drive-thru voting, and changing campaign finance rules to limit corporate control, along with many other things. The Democratic Party views the bill as a “signature piece of legislation”, with Biden under pressure to push the legislation through.
GOP lawmakers, however, claim that the Democratic initiatives will inculcate voter fraud and election result manipulation. With the Senate equally divided between the parties, and the Democrats not fully united in their support to change Senate rules – the idea is opposed by moderates Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – voting rights legislation has been bumping up against the filibuster wall for months.
This is not the first time that Biden has supported a change to Senate rules. Particularly, he backed a return of the so-called “talking filibuster” (when a lawmaker verbally and in-person debates a piece of legislation for a period as long as it takes to delay the decision) or changing the rules so that bills would only require 41 votes instead of 60 to pass.
According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Senate Republicans are “abusing” the filibuster to prevent the important voter access bill from consideration. Psaki suggested that if GOP lawmakers continue to obstruct key legislation, “we are going to look at what needs to be done to get it done.”