|On Tuesday, July 13, 2021, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, President Biden called out Republicans for promoting the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and Trump really won. But in doing so, Biden fostered his own Big Lie.
The President advocated that the Democrats could overcome Republican voter suppression efforts and win the 2022 elections without carving out an exception to the Senate filibuster for voting rights. All the evidence suggests Biden is wrong.
Ten Republican senators must join all the Democrats to break a filibuster and pass voting rights legislation. Yet, last month all 50 Republican senators voted to block consideration of the voting rights bills.
In addition, Republican and Democratic senators are having an almost impossible time hammering out a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. This despite the fact that it would clearly benefit red and blue states alike. The likelihood of a bipartisan agreement on voting rights is even more daunting given Republicans’ fears that it will hurt their chances of winning future elections.
Recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) proposed a voting rights compromise which included some provisions like voter I.D. that Republicans support. However, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has already indicated that he opposes Manchin’s counteroffer.
To undermine the Republicans’ ever-increasing assault on our right to vote, Biden urged Congress pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. However, he never mentioned the greatest impediment to achieving that goal, the Senate filibuster, and then failed to offer a viable path forward for enacting those landmark bills.
Biden appears to naively think that an “all-out effort” to educate Americans about Republican suppression of voting rights will mobilize the public to ensure these bills are passed. Even if that were the case, and that’s a very big ‘if,’ such an effort will take precious time that we don’t have. As I noted in my blog last week (“Can We Save Our Right to Vote”), redistricting of Congressional boundaries will begin soon. And Republicans are set “to gerrymander enough House of Representative districts to win back the majority in Congress in the 2022 elections. At which point, House Republicans will be able to obstruct President Biden’s entire agenda.”
Fortunately, while Biden wavers, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats are pushing ahead. Schumer has called for a cloture vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill for this coming Wednesday. While that vote may very well fail, it will provide a clear sign of whether there are at least the minimum 10 Republican senators required to advance the bill without altering the filibuster. It may also help persuade reluctant Democratic senators like Manchin that the only way to protect our voting rights is by reforming or eliminating the filibuster.
At the same time, the man most responsible for getting Biden’s presidential campaign on the winning track, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), has called for Biden to endorse creating a carveout to the Senate filibuster for legislation like the voting rights bills that applies to the Constitution. If Biden wants strong Black support for Democrats in the 2022 election, as well as for his own re-election in 2024, he had better listen to one of the most influential Black officials in the country.
The Democrats need all the help they can get. And they need it now! Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators (202-224-3121). Demand a carve out of the filibuster for voting rights and that the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act be passed and signed into law by the end of August at the latest.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.