Biden urges Senate to eliminate filibuster in voting rights pitch: ‘I’m tired of being quiet’ – as it happened

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden urges Senate to eliminate filibuster in voting rights pitch: ‘I’m tired of being quiet’ – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh (now) and Joan E Greve (earlier), for theguardian.com on Wednesday 12th January 2022 00.12 UTC

Today’s politics recap

  • Joe Biden called on the US Senate to eliminate the filibuster rule in order to pass the two voting rights bills stalled by Republicans. The US president took the bully pulpit, using a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, the cradle of the civil rights movement, to give an impassioned plea for Congress to pass his bills to ensure Americans’ access to the ballot box. Biden said he was “tired of being quiet”. (But has he left it too late?)
  • Kamala Harris, accompanying the president and speaking first, argued that Senate Democrats should not allow the filibuster to prevent them from advancing national voting rights legislation. The vice-president said: “The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act.” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator from New York, said earlier that the Senate would act on voting rights “as soon as tomorrow”.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, once again clashed with the Republican senator Rand Paul. Members of the White House pandemic response team testified before the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions. The top US public health official accused the rightwinger of using the Covid pandemic for his political benefit.
  • The House select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection has issued a subpoena to Trump’s policy adviser Ross Worthington. Worthington helped draft the speech that Donald Trump delivered prior to the attack on the capitol. The committee has also subpoenaed two advisers to Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr, Andy Surabian and Arthur Schwartz.

– Joanie Greve, Joanna Walters, Maanvi Singh

Updated

Martin Luther King III, a civil rights leader and son of Martin Luther King Jr, reflected on Joe Biden’s speech in Atlanta, calling on the president to “use the full power of his office” to eliminate the filibuster:

President Biden was clear in his call for eliminating the filibuster to pass voting rights, and we’re grateful he has taken this bold step to support the change that we need. But he can’t rest this call at the feet of the Senate and walk away – he must use the full power of his office to ensure this Jim Crow relic finally falls.

The president cited his pedigree of dealmaking to pass voting rights legislation as a senator – we know he has the power and influence to do the same today. When we met with the president today, we reiterated that we expect strong action, not just words. We need to see a plan. We will be watching closely and mobilizing to ensure his speech is backed by the full power and influence of his office.”

Andrea Waters King, a civil rights advocate, added:

We won’t be satisfied until the president signs both the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act into law. We are hopeful to see him heed our call and begin putting his full force behind the legislation now. But we intend to hold him accountable until we see him deliver for voting rights.”

Updated

An Indiana state senator has backtracked on his remarks that teachers must be impartial when discussing nazism in classrooms after he sparked widespread backlash.

During a state senate committee hearing last week about Senate Bill 167, a proposed bill that would ban “concepts that divide”, the Republican senator Scott Baldwin, who co-wrote the bill, said teachers should remain unprejudiced when teaching lessons about fascism and nazism.

“Marxism, nazism, fascism … I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms’,” Baldwin said, adding, “I believe we’ve gone too far when we take a position … We need to be impartial.” He went on to say that teachers should “just provide the facts” and that he is “not sure it’s right for us to determine how that child should think and that’s where I’m trying to provide the guardrails”.

Baldwin has since walked back on his remarks. In an email to the Indianapolis Star last Thursday, he said that his intention with the bill was to make sure teachers are being impartial when discussing and teaching “legitimate political groups”.

“When I was drafting this bill, my intent with regard to ‘political affiliation’ was to cover political parties within the legal American political system,” Baldwin said. “In my comments during committee, I was thinking more about the big picture and trying to say that we should not tell kids what to think about politics.”

He went on to denounce the aforementioned ideologies, saying, “nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don’t experience them again in humanity.”

SB 167 was filed in recent weeks in response to the fierce debates that have emerged across Indiana and the rest of the country in the past year regarding the ways schools should teach children about racism, history and other subject matters.

Read more:

‘He’s a punchline’: ‘laughable’ pick for Greece envoy puts pressure on Biden

Joe Biden has styled himself as a defender of democracy but, critics say, is setting the worst possible example with his choice of envoy to Athens.

The US president nominated George Tsunis, a hotel developer and Democratic donor with no diplomatic experience, as US ambassador to Greece.

When Tsunis seeks confirmation at a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Wednesday, he will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the train wreck that was his last appearance there eight years ago.

On that occasion Tsunis was Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Norway. Bumbling and ill-prepared, he admitted that he had never been to Norway and referred to the country as having a president when, as a constitutional monarchy, it does not.

Tsunis also claimed that Norway’s Progress party was among “fringe elements” that “spew their hatred” and was criticized by Norway’s government. In fact, the Progress party was part of the governing coalition.

The hapless nominee withdrew from consideration after causing dismay among Norwegian Americans and earning ridicule on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Now he is getting a do-over that, critics maintain, he does not deserve.

Brett Bruen, who was global engagement director of the Obama White House and recalls Tsunis’s first foray as a “debacle” in which he was “torn to shreds” by Senator John McCain, said: “The notion that he gets a second chance just utterly shocks me because in serious circles of international affairs he’s a punchline.

“So why in the world would you send someone to a significant country like Greece – at a dangerous time – to represent us there who in the eyes of most foreign policy hands can’t keep some fundamental facts straight and does not deserve to be ambassador to Ulaanbaatar, let alone Athens?”

A lawyer, developer and philanthropist, Tsunis has donated to both Democrats and Republicans, including more than $1.3m to Obama in 2012.

Read more:

The House Select Committee probing the 6 January insurrection have issued subpoenas to policy adviser Ross Worthington, who helped draft the speech that Donald Trump delivered prior to the attack on the capitol.

The committee has also subpoenaed two advisers to Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr, Andy Surabian and Arthur Schwartz.

Today so far

Thanks for tuning into the US politics news live blog, we’re handing over from the east coast to the west now, where Maanvi Singh will take you through the next few hours as things continue to develop.

Here’s where things stand:

  • Joe Biden called on the US Senate to eliminate the filibuster rule in order to pass the two voting rights bills that are crucial to his legislative agenda but are stalled there by Republican opposition and a lack of will to change the rules to work around them.
  • The US president is at the bully pulpit, using a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, the cradle of the civil rights movement, to give an impassioned plea for Congress to pass his bills to ensure Americans’ access to the ballot box. Biden said he is “tired of being quiet”. (But has he left it too late?)
  • Kamala Harris, accompanying the president and speaking first, argued that Senate Democrats should not allow the filibuster to prevent them from advancing national voting rights legislation. The vice president said: “The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act.”
  • Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, said earlier today that the Senate will act on voting rights “as soon as tomorrow”.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, once again clashed with Republican Senator Rand Paul today, as members of the White House pandemic response team testified before the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions. The top US public health official accused the right-winger of using the Covid pandemic for his political benefit.

Joe Biden argued that the Republican minority in the Senate should not be allowed to use the filibuster to prevent the Democratic majority from enacting its agenda.

“Today, I’m making it clear,” the president said in Atlanta, to protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed, to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.”

Biden’s speech represented his most direct appeal yet to change Senate rules, but his strong words still may not be enough to get voting rights bills across the finish line.

Because the Senate is evenly divided between the two parties, majority leader Chuck Schumer needs all 50 Democratic senators’ support to move forward with rule changes.

At least one of those senators, Joe Manchin, has made it clear that he will not support any rule changes unless they can attract bipartisan support, which seems virtually impossible given Republicans’ unified opposition to filibuster reform.

Updated

Joe Biden encouraged election officials to decide whether they want to be on the right side of history when it comes to protecting voting rights for all Americans.

“History has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights,” the president said in Atlanta.

“Do you want to be on the side of Dr King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide.”

Updated

Biden calls on the Senate to eliminate filibuster to pass voting rights bills

Joe Biden said the Senate had been “rendered into a shell of its former self” because the filibuster has been “weaponized and abused” by the Republican minority.

The president argued Democrats should use every tool at their disposal to protect American democracy and strengthen voting rights.

“Let the majority prevail,” Biden said. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

However, it remains unclear whether Democrats have the votes to amend the filibuster, as some centrists — namely Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — have expressed skepticism of the idea.

Biden delivers impassioned pitch for voting rights: ‘I’m tired of being quiet’

Joe Biden is now speaking in Atlanta, Georgia, calling on Congress to pass national voting rights legislation to ensure Americans’ access to the ballot box.

The president argued this is a fragile moment for democracy and said America could set an example for the rest of the world by strengthening voting rights and election integrity.

“We must be vigilant, and the world is watching,” Biden said. “They’re watching American democracy and seeing if we can meet this moment.”

The president noted he has been having conversations with lawmakers about voting rights for months and now wants to see action, telling the Atlanta crowd, “I’m tired of being quiet.”

‘The Senate must act’ on voting rights, Harris says

Kamala Harris argued that Senate Democrats should not allow the filibuster to prevent them from advancing national voting rights legislation.

“The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act,” the vice-president said in Atlanta, Georgia.

Harris warned that future generations would one day ask us what we did to protect democracy, framing this moment as a crucial inflection point in American history.

“They will ask us not about how we felt. They will ask us, what did we do?” Harris said. “We cannot tell them that we let a Senate rule stand in the way of our most fundamental freedom.”

Updated

Kamala Harris acknowledged America’s long history of passing laws to make it more difficult for certain voters, particularly people of color, to access the ballot box.

“Anti-voters laws are not new in our nation, but we must not be deceived into thinking they’re normal,” Harris said. “There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines.”

The vice-president urged Americans not to be complacent about the enactment of voting restrictions, warning that Republicans were trying to “interfere with our elections to get the outcomes they want”.

“Do not succumb to those who would dismiss this assault on voting rights as an unfounded threat,” Harris said. “If we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.”

The sun beamed down over the area where the stage was set up, with the weather peaking at 50 degrees.

Attendees included students wearing maroon-colored Morehouse face masks and members of Vice President Kamala Harris’ Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Outside nearly a dozen people waved signs in protest of the administration’s appearance on campus.

Prior to the event beginning, Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were seen riding through a crowd of attendees on a golf cart.

Ben Jealous (L) and the Rev. Al Sharpton (R) talk as they wait for Joe Biden’s speech on voting rights.
Ben Jealous (L) and the Rev. Al Sharpton (R) talk as they wait for Joe Biden’s speech on voting rights. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Despite being inaccurately introduced as Martin Luther King High School, the drum line from Southwest Dekalb High School performed. The band had been silently practicing for its big moment for more than an hour before the event began.

The event took place at the Atlanta University Center consortium on the Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College’s campus in southwest Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. The AUC consortium is comprised of four HBCUS, including Spelman and Morris Brown college.

Spelman college SGA president Jillian Jackson invoked the activist legacies of Julian Bond, Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams who attended schools within the Atlanta University Center consortium while introducing the president and vice president.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now delivering remarks on the need to pass national voting rights legislation at the Atlanta University Center Consortium.

The president and vice-president were introduced by Jillian Jackson, the student body president at the historically Black Spelman College.

Jackson recounted her pride when she registered to vote at an NAACP drive, and she lamented the challenges that many Americans face in trying to access the ballot box.

As Harris stepped up to the podium, she told Jackson, “I can’t wait to see what you do next.”

Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, described the upcoming vote to amend the filibuster to clear the way for passing a voting rights bill as “the most important vote that I will ever take in my life”.

“I have been very reluctant since being here to talk at all about changing the filibuster, and if we were here today talking about a policy issue, I wouldn’t be at this podium,” King said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“But we’re not talking about a policy issue. We’re talking about a structural issue. we’re talking about how our system works.”

The Maine senator quoted the British historian Arnold Toynbee, who once said, “Civilizations commit suicide; they’re not murdered.”

“I don’t want to see that happen in the United States of America,” King said.

As Joe Biden arrived at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was once a pastor, reporters shouted questions at the president.

One journalist asked Biden for his message to supporters who are disappointed that Democrats have not already done more on voting rights. Another reporter asked Biden whether he has the votes necessary to pass a bill.

“Keep the faith,” Biden replied.

As of now, it appears that Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer does not have the votes necessary to amend the filibuster, which would clear the way for Democrats to pass a voting rights bill.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have just visited the crypt of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the civil rights icon, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, in Atlanta, Georgia.

The president and the vice-president laid a wreath at the crypt after meeting with members of the King family, including Dr Bernice A King and Martin Luther King III, two of Dr King’s children.

Biden and Harris are now visiting Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr King was once a pastor, before they deliver their speeches on voting rights this afternoon.

In a statement released earlier today, Martin Luther King III said, “We are hopeful that after tomorrow’s trip to our home state, the President will honor my father’s legacy by traveling back to Washington and using every political chip he has to ensure the filibuster doesn’t obstruct the right to vote for Black and Brown Americans.”

Although Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have attracted the most attention in the debate over filibuster reform, some other Senate Democrats appear to be on the fence as well.

Politico reports:

Mark Kelly is not yet committed to a change in the Senate rules that would allow elections reform legislation to pass by a simple majority. A centrist who is up for reelection in November, Kelly said Monday he is still undecided just days before he may have to vote on proposals to weaken the filibuster. …

For a caucus that prides itself on unity, there’s plenty of nuance in Democrats’ views.

Some, like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) like a talking filibuster but are ‘not crazy’ about making an exception for voting rights. Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) says reform is needed but is promoting more modest changes. She cites the near-impossible odds the party faces in getting all 50 Democrats on board for changing the filibuster unilaterally, also known as the ‘nuclear option.’

As a reminder, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer cannot afford any defections if he wants to amend the filibuster because the upper chamber is evenly divided, 50-50, between Democrats and Republicans.

Joe Manchin is insisting that any changes to Senate rules must attract bipartisan support, which is virtually impossible given Republicans’ unified opposition to filibuster reform.

And if Democrats cannot change Senate rules, they almost certainly cannot pass voting rights bills, as Republicans have repeatedly used the filibuster to block those proposals.

Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, urged lawmakers to prioritize the fate of American democracy over their desire for bipartisanship.

“Bipartisanship is wonderful when it works. But it must never come at the cost of democracy,” Johnson said on Twitter. “Getting voting rights legislation to the president’s desk has got to be the top priority above anything else.”

Senate will act on voting rights ‘as soon as tomorrow,’ Schumer says

Chuck Schumer, the senate majority leader, is pledging swift action on voting rights after Joe Biden’s forthcoming speech on the topic in Georgia later today. The New York Democrat is saying the senate could act as soon as tomorrow to take up voting rights legislation.

That means Schumer could bring up either the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act for a vote in the US senate. Both bills still will require the support of at least 60 senators to proceed because of the longstanding senate rule called the filibuster.

If Republicans again block the bill, which they are expected to do, Schumer will likely move to have a vote to change the rules around the filibuster.

Fellow Democrats have discussed a number of possible tweaks to the rule to overcome Republican obstruction. It’s still not clear if Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two key Democrats who support keeping the filibuster in place, would support those measures.

Schumer has pledged a vote on the voting rights measure no later than 17 January, a federal holiday in the US to celebrate the life and work of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Meanwhile, Joanna Walters writes:

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s high-stakes visit to Atlanta today is in danger of backfiring horribly after exasperated voting rights activists in Georgia first warned them not come there just for more speeches without a “concrete plan” to get the relevant legislation passed in the Senate and then, when no signal was forthcoming about such a plan, basically decided to boycott the event.

The president and vice president are both with the family of Martin Luther King III now, the son of civil rights icon Dr Martin Luther King Jr, for a private meeting, having laid a wreath at the civil rights icon’s tomb in Atlanta moments ago.

Updated

Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has acknowledged that high inflation has emerged as a serious threat to the central bank’s goal of getting more Americans back to work and that the Fed will raise rates further if needed to stem surging prices.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during his re-nominations hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill today.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during his re-nominations hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill today. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

“If we have to raise interest rates more over time, we will,” Powell said during a hearing of the Senate banking committee, which is considering his nomination for a second four-year term.

The Associated Press reports:

Fed officials have forecast three increases in the their benchmark short-term rate this year, though some economists say they envision four rate hikes in 2022.
The stark challenge for Powell if he is confirmed as expected for a new term was underscored by the questions he faced from both Democratic and Republican senators. Powell and the central bank are under rising pressure to rein in inflation without ramping up interest rates so high that the economy tumbles into another recession.
Today, Powell took pains to rebuff suggestions from some Democratic senators that rate increases would slow hiring and potentially leave many people, particularly lower-income and Black Americans, without jobs. Fed rate increases typically lead to higher rates on many consumer and business loans and have the effect of slowing economic growth.

But Powell made clear that he is now more worried about the damage that rising inflation could inflict on the job market.

“High inflation is a severe threat to the achievement of maximum employment,” he said.
The economy, the Fed chair added, must grow for an extended period to put as many Americans back to work as possible. Controlling inflation without raising rates so high as to choke off the economic recovery is critical to lowering unemployment, Powell said.

“We know that high inflation exacts a toll, particularly for those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing, and transportation,” he told the committee.

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden is traveling to Atlanta, Georgia, to deliver a speech on the need to pass national voting rights legislation. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has set a deadline of 17 January, Martin Luther King Day, to vote on rule changes to clear the way for passing voting rights bills. Speaking to reporters before flying to Atlanta, Biden said, “People are going to be judged – where were they before and where were they after the vote. History is going to judge us. It’s that consequential.”
  • But Senator Joe Manchin has indicated he still wants bipartisan support for any changes to the filibuster, which Republicans have repeatedly used to block voting rights bills. Republicans are unified in their opposition to amending the filibuster, and Democrats cannot move forward without Manchin’s support, making it virtually impossible to pass a voting rights bill right now.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci accused Republican Senator Rand Paul of trying to politically benefit from the pandemic, as the president’s chief medical adviser testified before the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions. “In usual fashion, you are distorting everything about me,” Fauci told Paul. “You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance to reality.”

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

Fauci accuses Paul of attempting to politically benefit from the pandemic

Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, once again clashed with Republican Senator Rand Paul today, as members of the White House pandemic response team testified before the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions.

During his questioning, Paul accused Fauci of using government resources to attack other health experts who disagreed with him on coronavirus-related policies.

“In usual fashion, you are distorting everything about me,” Fauci told Paul. “You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance to reality.”

Fauci argued that Paul’s attacks had distracted from the work necessary to get the pandemic under control, while also endangering him and his family.

“That kindles the crazies out there,” Fauci said. “I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me.”

Fauci also noted that Paul has fundraised off calls for his resignation, encouraging supporters to donate to his campaign if they believe the expert should be fired.

“Go to Rand Paul website and you see ‘Fire Dr. Fauci’ with a little box that says contribute here,” Fauci said. “So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.”

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell warned that Republicans would retaliate against Democrats if they move forward with amending the filibuster to pass voting rights bills.

“Fifty Republican senators, the largest possible minority, have been sent here to represent the many millions of Americans whom Leader Schumer wants so badly to leave behind,” McConnell said in a floor speech moments ago.

“So if my colleague tries to break the Senate to silence those millions of Americans, we will make their voices heard in this chamber in ways that are more inconvenient for the majority and this White House than what anybody has seen in living memory.”

Republicans could theoretically throw up more procedural roadblocks to delay the confirmation of Joe Biden’s nominees and block the passage of routine bills.

“What would a post-nuclear Senate look like? I assure you it would not be more efficient or more productive,” McConnell said. “I personally guarantee it.”

The Republican who memorably resisted Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his election defeat in Georgia has said he will run for re-election on a platform of “integrity and truth”, against an opponent who as a churchman “should know better” than to advance the former president’s lies.

Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, became a household name after he turned down Trump’s demand that he “find 11,780 votes” in order to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the southern state. It was the first victory by a Democrat in a presidential race in Georgia since 1992.

The call is among subjects of an investigation by the district attorney of Fulton county into whether Trump and others committed crimes in their push to overturn election results in the state.

On Monday, Fani Willis told the Associated Press she expected to make a decision in the case in the first half of this year.

“We’re going to just get the facts, get the law, be very methodical, very patient and, in some extent, unemotional about this quest for justice,” she said.

Another reporter asked Joe Biden whether he was insulted that Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams will not be attending his speech in Atlanta.

“I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship,” Biden said, adding that their teams got their scheduling “mixed up”. “We’re all on the same page.”

A number of influential political activists in Georgia are refusing to attend Biden’s speech because they say the event is a “waste of time” when it appears Democrats do not have the votes in the Senate to pass a voting rights bill.

Jewel Wicker has more details on that dust-up:

‘History is going to judge us,’ Biden says ahead of voting rights speech

Joe Biden has just left the White House to start the trip to Atlanta, Georgia, where he will deliver an afternoon speech on the need to pass national voting rights legislation.

As he left the White House, a reporter asked Biden what he is risking politically by making the speech when it remains very unclear whether the evenly divided Senate can pass a voting rights bill.

“I risk not saying what I believe. That’s what I risk. This is one of those defining moments, it really is,” Biden said.

“People are going to be judged — where were they before and where were they after the vote. History is going to judge us. It’s that consequential. And so the risk is making sure people understand just how important this is.”

As of now, it appears that Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer does not have the votes necessary to amend the filibuster and allow voting rights bills to advance. Schumer has set a deadline of 17 January, Martin Luther King Day, to vote on the matter.

In his Atlanta speech, Biden is expected to say, “The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch.”

Updated

Before traveling to Atlanta to address voting rights, Joe Biden congratulated the University of Georgia Bulldogs for their victory in last night’s national college football championship game.

“Congratulations @GeorgiaFootball on your national championship! Your skill, grit, and determination show us what is possible – and how to win your school’s first title in 41 years. I’m proud of you, Bulldogs,” the president said on Twitter.

The Bulldogs scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide 33 to 18.

Manchin still wants Republican support for filibuster reform

Senator Joe Manchin reiterated that he wants bipartisan support for any changes made to the filibuster, which is extremely unlikely to happen given Republicans’ vehement opposition to Democrats’ proposals.

“We need some good rule changes to make the place work better, but getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better,” Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill moments ago.

Because the Senate is evenly divided between the two parties, majority leader Chuck Schumer needs the support of all 50 Democratic senators to get rule changes approved.

Many Democrats have called for amending the filibuster with a simple majority, but Manchin once again made clear that he wants the vote to occur under regular order, which would require a two-thirds supermajority for passage.

“We need some good rules changes, and we can do that together,” Manchin said.

“But you change the rules with two-thirds of the people that are present, so it’s Democrats and Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better. Getting rid of the filibuster does not make it work better.”

Manchin’s comments come hours before Joe Biden is set to address the need for filibuster reform to pass voting rights bills in a speech in Atlanta, Georgia.

Echoing a number of other civil rights leaders, the president of the NAACP said Joe Biden’s speech on voting rights today needs to translate into action in Congress.

“There is nothing more urgent than securing the foundations of our democracy,” NAACP president Derrick Johnson said in a statement ahead of Biden’s trip to Atlanta.

“This administration and this Congress must use all the tools at their disposal to get voting rights across the finish line. We need to see outcomes.”

Of course, it remains unclear whether Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer can convince all 50 members of his caucus to support changing the filibuster, which would allow voting rights bills to advance.

Senate Republicans have repeatedly used the filibuster to block the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The attorney general of New York state is acting unconstitutionally and in an un-American way in investigating the Trump Organization, Eric Trump has insisted, claiming a civil inquiry into his father’s financial and tax affairs is politically motivated.

Eric Trump.
Eric Trump. Photograph: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

“This is what you would expect from Russia,” Trump told Fox News on Monday. “This is what you would expect from Venezuela. This is third-rate stuff.”

The investigation run by Letitia James is looking into questions including whether the Trump Organization altered property valuations for tax purposes. A separate, criminal investigation in Manhattan is covering similar ground.

Such alleged behavior has been widely reported. In 2016, as Donald Trump ran for the White House, the Guardian reported on a golf club outside New York City. The headline: How Trump’s $50m golf club became $1.4m when it came time to pay tax. Trump denies wrongdoing.

Eric Trump initially refused to comply with the James investigation but was taken to court then questioned in 2020. James has issued subpoenas to Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump. They have refused to comply.

The family has sued, alleging the investigation is politically motivated – a delaying tactic the New York Times said “Mr Trump has deployed in the past when faced with scrutiny by law enforcement and others”.

As the Times put it, “there is no constitutional protection against a prosecutor harboring a political bias”. Experts believe the Trump suit will not succeed.

Eric Trump’s remark about Russia raised eyebrows. He is reported to have told a golf writer, in 2014, that the Trump Organization did not “rely on American banks” because it had “all the funding we need out of Russia”. He denies the remark.

Joe Biden will meet with Martin Luther King III, the son of the celebrated civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, before delivering his speech in Atlanta.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to meet with the President to express our deep concerns for the state of our democracy, and convey that his visit cannot be a mere formality. We see his speech as a critical first step in a series of actions to move voting rights legislation forward,” King said in a statement.

“We also support the Georgia groups who have decided not to attend the President’s speech today — they’re frustrated after a year of inaction and we are too. We’re in communication with them and stand in solidarity to ensure voting rights get done.”

While in Atlanta, Biden will lay a wreath at the crypt of Dr King and visit the church where he was once a pastor.

King noted in his statement, “We are hopeful that after tomorrow’s trip to our home state, the President will honor my father’s legacy by traveling back to Washington and using every political chip he has to ensure the filibuster doesn’t obstruct the right to vote for Black and Brown Americans.”

A coalition of influential political activists in Georgia that boosted turnout in a state crucial to Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 is refusing to attend the visit planned on Tuesday by the US president and Kamala Harris to speak on voting rights.

The group had warned the president and vice-president that they needed to announce a specific plan to get national voting rights legislation passed or risk their high-profile trip to Atlanta being dismissed as “a waste of time”.

On Monday evening, the coalition of activist groups – Black Voters Matter, Galeo Impact Fund, New Georgia Project Action Fund, Asian American Advocacy Fund, Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council – along with James Woodall, the Georgia NAACP president, announced that “we will not be attending” when Biden and Harris speak.

“Instead of giving a speech tomorrow, the US Senate should be voting tomorrow. What we need now, rather than a visit from the president, vice-president and legislators is for the White House and Senate to remain in DC and act immediately to pass federal legislation to protect our freedom to vote,” the groups said in joint statement.

Biden to travel to Georgia to demand action on voting rights

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, today to call on Congress to immediately pass national voting rights legislation, which has stalled in the Senate due to Republican filibustering.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice?” Biden is expected to say.

“I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”

Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for Harry Reid.
Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for Harry Reid. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Of course, the key question is whether Democrats will be able to amend the filibuster to lower the 60-vote threshold needed to pass voting rights bills.

As of now, it remains unclear whether centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would support changes to the filibuster, and majority leader Chuck Schumer needs all 50 Democratic senators on board in order to move forward.

Regarding what Biden will say on the filibuster, a White House official said, “After the GOP’s support for state attempts to undermine the rule of law based on simple majority votes around the country, he supports – as an institutionalist – changing the Senate rules to ensure it can work again and be restored and this basic right is defended.”

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

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