Friday, March 1

“I’m tired of being quiet”

(CNN) — President Joe Biden gave a major speech in Atlanta on voting rights, to increase the pressure on reluctant senators as Democrats face pressure to pass two pending bills that are opposed by nearly all Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“I have had these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the past two months. I’m tired of being quiet, ”Biden said Tuesday, slapping his hand on the lectern to emphasize his point.

The president’s speech in Atlanta is the latest of his recurring calls for the nation’s voting rights to be strengthened. Throughout the first year of his presidency, Biden has given several speeches on the right to vote, including in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the centennial of the racial massacre in that city; the graduation ceremony from South Carolina State University; at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington and at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

During the opening speech on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, Biden recalled “the violent crowd” that stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and former President Donald Trump, of whom He said he “tried to win through violence what he had lost through the ballot box, impose the will of a mob, annul free and fair elections, and for the first time in American history, to stop the peaceful transfer of power “.

“They failed. They failed. But the victory of democracy was not certain. Neither is the future of democracy, “added Biden. “That is why we are here today.”

Biden will join Vice President Kamala Harris in Georgia, whom he appointed to lead the administration’s work on voting rights. Various members of Congress, local officials, and civil rights leaders accompany them on different parts of the trip.

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During their time in Atlanta, the President and Vice President placed a wreath in the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and visited the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In his previous remarks to the president in Atlanta, Harris claimed that Americans could face dire consequences if the nation becomes compliant with restrictive election laws being enacted in several states, including Georgia.

“Every American in every community in every political party will feel the assault on our freedom to vote. And if we sit idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come, ”he said.

Changing the obstructionist rules in the Senate, which require 60 votes to end debate on the legislation, is a big topic of the day, and of Biden’s speech. This Tuesday, Biden is repeating his call for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, “added Psaki.

Without changing the obstructionist rules, it is unclear how the bill that Biden wants to pass will be carried out. During the Atlanta remarks, Biden called for the rules to be changed: He had previously expressed support for making an exception to the obstructionist rules to pass legislation on voting rights.

“I support changing the Senate rules, in whatever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking shares on voting rights,” he said Tuesday.

The Senate is expected to assume voting rights in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has set a January 17 deadline, Martin Luther King Jr.Day, for the Senate to vote on a rule change if Republicans continue to block voting rights legislation. .

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Biden’s visit to the Peach estate, which takes place less than a week before MLK Jr.Day, comes amid pressure from advocates asking Biden to more clearly spell out a path for the bills to pass. of electoral rights law.

Several voting rights groups issued a letter saying that Biden and Harris should not visit Atlanta without a concrete plan to pass voting rights bills immediately. On Monday, a coalition of voting rights groups in Georgia announced that they will not attend events related to Biden’s visit.

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“We don’t need another speech. What we need is a plan,” Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, told reporters Monday. “We will not attend the speech that the president will give tomorrow.”

Albright said he would like the president to address voting rights the same way he worked to get his bipartisan infrastructure law passed and personally appeal to senators.

“If you say the next seven days will be historic and critical, you have to take the lead completely after giving the speech, have the kind of meetings, find out with (West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe) MManchin what exactly he is. it’s going to take, and be very direct and forceful as it has been in infrastructure and some other issues, “said Albright.

Albright added: “It doesn’t make sense to have 40 years of Senate experience just to tell us you can’t win two votes.”

Noted Georgia leader Stacey Abrams – arguably the Democratic Party’s leading advocate for voting rights after using her 2018 gubernatorial loss to Republican Brian Kemp to raise the issue – did not attend Biden’s speech. After the election, Abrams founded Fair Fight, an organization that advocates for the protection of voters across the country, and this year she is running again for governor.

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The president said Tuesday morning that he had spoken with Abrams and attributed his absence to his upcoming speech to a scheduling conflict.

“I spoke with Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We mixed up our schedule. I spoke at length with her this morning. We are all on the same page and everything is fine,” he said.

On Tuesday, aboard Air Force One, Psaki told reporters that Biden shares his own frustrations with voting rights activists over the current stalemate in voting rights.

“He shares the desire to do this. He shares his frustration that it is not done yet,” Psaki said.

Jana Morgan, director of the Declaration for American Democracy, told CNN that she is “cautiously optimistic” about Biden’s speech, but sees it as a first step.

“We will be watching closely to make sure there is a follow-up to these comments,” Morgan said. He leads a coalition of organizations working to promote voting rights.

Morgan said he wants the president to personally appeal to senators to pass legislation on the right to vote.

“He has said that this is the greatest test for our country since the Civil War, and I think he is right because American democracy is under attack. So we wanted to see those strong words put into action, ”Morgan said.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Dan Merica, Fredreka Schouten and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.

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