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In pivot to voting rights, Biden risks falling short on a second big goal


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The New York Times
SOURCE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-pivot-to-voting-rights-biden-risks-falling-short-on-a-second-big-goal/2022/01/10/cf5169e0-722a-11ec-b202-b9b92330d4fa_story.html
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Summary

President Biden plans to deliver a hard-hitting speech in Atlanta on voting rights Tuesday, saying the issue is fundamental to America, calling for passage of sweeping legislation and denouncing in detail the impact of voting restrictions in states like Georgia.But in pivoting so fully to voting rights from his recent efforts to pass a major social spending bill, Biden risks opening the new year with a second legislative setback, given the daunting obstacles facing any voting rights package in Congress — including the near-unified opposition of Republicans and the reluctance of some Democrats to ease filibuster rules.The president, whose views on the Senate’s rules have evolved as pressure from the party’s base has grown, will throw his support behind changing the legislative filibuster to ease passage of voting measures and to ensure that “this basic right is defended,” said a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the speech.Biden has endorsed a so-called “carve-out” before, but Tuesday’s remarks are expected to be his most extensive on the issue.“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”The event at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College in Atlanta comes after Biden’s speech on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, with White House aides viewing Tuesday’s remarks as a second chapter to last week’s forceful defense of democratic institutions and rebuke of former president Donald Trump’s role in fomenting false claims about his loss in the 2020 elections.Biden is gambling on the limited powers of the bully pulpit to shift dynamics in the Senate that have largely been immovable, as a pair of Democratic senators continue to resist changes to chamber rules that would allow bills to pass on a simple majority vote.The Atlanta speech also comes as Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better package — which would invest approximately $2 trillion in climate initiatives, health-care programs and the social safety net — remains stalled in the Senate, risking legislative defeats on two major priorities at the start of a midterms year.Biden’s Capitol address raises stakes for voting rights speechThe president’s allies argue that the fight is worth having even if it falls short, given the stakes. He and Vice President Harris — who has been the administration’s point person on voting rights — will also visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change on the eve of the annual holiday commemorating the civil rights leader.In previewing the president’s speech on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden plans to “forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American rights, the right to vote and have your voice counted in a free, fair and secure election that is not tainted, by partisan manipulation.”Ensuring that, Psaki said, can only be done by passing a pair of voting legislation that has repeatedly stalled in the Senate due to near-uniform Republican opposition.Psaki highlighted the symbolic importance of delivering the remarks in Georgia, the home of the late civil rights hero and congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) and the epicenter of battles over voting access.

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