The Time Is Now: President Biden Must Take Decisive Action To Help Pass Voting Rights
The moment of truth on voting rights has arrived for President Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced last week that the Senate’s first order of business when it returns in September will be voting rights legislation.
President Biden must decide whether he will finally engage in the battle in Congress to pass this vitally important legislation or whether he will continue to sit on the sidelines and fail to help prevent massive voter suppression and extreme partisan gerrymandering.
While President Biden and White House officials have had hundreds of meetings with lawmakers on Biden’s priority infrastructure legislation, there is little evidence that they have had any meaningful engagement with Congress on the voting rights legislation.
Meanwhile, 18 states have enacted 30 voting restriction laws this year that make voting far more difficult, with more to come, as more than 400 bills have been introduced in 49 states to restrict voting access.
Millions of Americans, in particular, Black, brown, Native American, other minorities, disabled, elderly, and young voters, face losing the ability to vote in federal elections if the legislation pending in the Senate is not enacted soon.
If not overridden by the federal voting rules contained in the voting rights legislation, the new state laws will result in the greatest voter suppression in the United States since the Jim Crow era.
In the same vein, millions of Americans face voting in partisan gerrymandered congressional districts rigged to greatly benefit the officeholders and their parties who draw the district lines.
A revised, narrower version of H.R. 1/S. 1 that effectively addresses voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering is expected to be the focus of Senate action in September. It must be enacted to protect the right of every eligible American to vote and to provide for fair redistricting. And, it must be enacted along with H.R. 4, complementary voting rights legislation to prevent voter discrimination, which is expected to pass the House next week.
President Biden made a powerful speech about the need to protect voting rights in Philadelphia last month. He also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer last month to discuss the voting rights efforts in Congress.
The nation, however, has not seen action in Congress by President Biden and his Administration on voting rights that in any way compares with the all-out effort made by the President and White House on infrastructure. In fact, we’ve seen little, if any, action at all in Congress by President Biden and his Administration to pass voting rights legislation.
President Biden empowered Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to play leading roles in the development of the infrastructure bill and worked with them to pass the bill. Biden must now enlist Manchin and Sinema to join the effort to bypass the Republican filibuster that we know will occur and to pass the revised voting rights legislation.
The filibuster rules have never been written in stone. They have been routinely changed with 161 statutes passed over the years that allow measures to pass the Senate without being subject to filibuster rules.
The time is now for the President.
President Biden must take decisive action to help pass the voting rights legislation in the Senate or the President must bear his full share of responsibility for failing to protect this sacred right to vote and our democracy.
This also appeared in Wertheimer’s Political Report, a weekly newsletter.