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Vice President Kamala Harris charged lawmakers who oppose Joe Biden’s agenda and his effort to end the filibuster with violating their oath to protect and defend the Constitution by refusing to do so.
The VP’s remarks to NBC News were aimed at both Senate Republicans and fellow Democrats who are objecting to the move.
‘I will not absolve the 50 Republicans in the United States Senate from responsibility, from upholding one of the most basic tenants of our democracy which is free and fair elections and access to the ballot for all eligible voters,’ Harris said.
However, it is not only Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who have resisted a change in Senate rules to kill the filibuster, but also the 50-member-strong Republican minority, including Senators like Mitt Romney of Utah who have questioned Donald Trump’s election fraud allegations.
When asked by Craig Melvin about fellow Democrats Manchin and Sinema, Harris gave the same response.
‘I don’t think anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy especially when they took an oath to protect our Constitution.’
Barack Obama, former president of the United States, joined the campaign Wednesday to pressure Democratic senators to support the voting rights legislation, calling it a means of propping ‘up Jim Crow.’
In an op-ed article published in USA Today, the former president argued that filibusters have ‘no basis in the Constitution’ and were used by Southern senators to thwart civil rights legislation that disenfranchised black citizens.
‘I fully support President Joe Biden’s call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote,’ Obama wrote.
‘In recent years, the filibuster became a routine way for the Senate minority to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters. But we can’t allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy,’ he continued.
Obama referred to civil rights leader John Lewis in his op-ed, for whom a voting bill was named.
Moreover, he warned that Republican-controlled states are passing legislation that is harming Democrats this November when the voters decide which party controls the House and Senate.
‘What we’re seeing now are far more aggressive and precise efforts on the part of Republican state legislatures to tilt the playing field in their favor,’ Obama stated.
‘Perhaps most perniciously, we’ve seen state legislatures try to assert power over core election processes including the ability to certify election results. These partisan attempts at voter nullification are unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times, and they represent a profound threat to the basic democratic principle that all votes should be counted fairly and objectively.’
Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is plotting to bypass Republican opposition to voting legislation, but his gamble may not pay off because he will need 10 Republican senators to achieve final passage.
While this move buys time, he and other Democratic leaders are trying to convince Manchin and Sinema to change Senate rules in order to kill a filibuster on the voting legislation.
In an equally divided Senate, Biden needs every Democratic vote with the Vice President acting as the tiebreaker.
Senator Schumer’s move and Obama’s op-ed coincide with President Biden’s visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with Democrats personally.
In a memo to lawmakers, Schumer outlined his plan to pass voting legislation.
In an attempt to get around Senate Republican opposition, the House will introduce an unrelated NASA bill. The House will substitute the combined language of two voting bills being slowed down in the Senate, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, for NASA language.
On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote on its new single bill.
‘Tomorrow, the House will pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and send it to the Senate for consideration,’ a letter from Pelosi to Democrat members of the House read on Wednesday.
Upon passing in the Democratic-controlled chamber, the speaker can send the message to the Senate.
The bill would be classified as a ‘message between the houses,’ which means Schumer can go around Republicans’ vow to filibuster without needing 60 votes to start the debate.
Then, the legislation can be debated.
This does not, however, guarantee that the legislation will be passed. Schumer will still require 60 votes to file cloture after the debate concludes – meaning that he will need 10 GOP senators on board to end the debate.
Republican filibuster power can then be used to stop the legislation from proceeding.
‘With this procedure, we will finally have an opportunity to debate voting rights legislation – something that Republicans have thus far denied,’ Schumer wrote to Democrats. ‘Of course, to ultimately end debate and pass the voting rights legislation, we will need 10 Republicans to join us – which we know from past experience will not happen – or we will need to change the Senate rules as has been done many times before.’
In that case, Schumer would have to decide whether to invoke the ‘nuclear option,’ meaning changing Senate rules to move the bill forward with a simple majority instead of 60 votes.
When he goes nuclear, he will need Harris and all 50 Democrats to join him in killing the filibuster.
Manchin has stated on several occasions that he would be willing to change the Senate’s rules but only with Republican backing. Democratic senators are attempting to convince both him and Sinema of the need for action.
Senator Schumer has repeatedly said that he wants voting legislation passed by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named for the late Congressman and civil rights activist, would replace certain statutes of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court overturned in 2013. Unlike the House bill, the Freedom to Vote Act limits voter registration, early voting, mail-in voting, and campaign finance restrictions. This bill would also make Election Day a public holiday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also warned senators they may have to stay in the nation’s capital over the weekend, and the vote may occur on Monday, a federal holiday.
On Wednesday, Republicans ratcheted up their rhetoric following Biden’s own fiery speech in which he accused Republican politicians of being on the wrong side of history regarding voting rights.
‘The president’s rant – rant – yesterday was incorrect, incoherent, and beneath his office,’ McConnell said on the Senate floor after Biden’s speech, calling it ‘profoundly, profoundly unpresidential.’
Biden, who was at the Capitol to pay his respects to Harry Reid, whose remains lie in state in the Capitol rotunda, tried to schedule a meeting with McConnell.
However, the two men did not connect. Biden did not seem phased by the attacks.
‘I like Mitch McConnell. He’s a friend,’ Biden said to reporters.
In preparation for the midterm elections in November, which will determine control of the House and Senate next year, both sides are exchanging harsh words. Voting rights legislation is at the center of the battle. Democrats want it passed because they believe it will ensure the right to vote. Republicans oppose it, saying elections are a state issue.
As a result of Biden’s speech on Tuesday in Atlanta, the Senate Republican leader responded.
Biden ‘delivered a deliberately divisive speech,’ McConnell said. ‘It was designed to pull our country further apart.’
McConnell cited Biden’s comparison of opponents to ‘literal traitors’ and said he was demonizing ‘Americans who disagreed with him’.
‘He called millions of Americans his domestic enemies.’
‘Look I’ve known liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday.’
Biden repeatedly attacked Republicans for blocking voting rights legislation and he charged them with weaponizing the filibuster in his speech on Tuesday in Atlanta.
‘The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart. The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.’
‘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?,’ Biden continued.
‘This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy. Each one of the members of the Senate is going to be judged by history on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote.’
Republicans warn that if the filibuster is killed for voting rights legislation, it may also be killed for other issues, weakening its power. As Biden makes the case against the filibuster, Republicans argue in favor of it.
Manchin and Sinema are hesitant to kill the filibuster because of its loss of power.
Biden will tell Democrats in his speech on Thursday that the filibuster is being used to obstruct.
When he meets with Senate Democrats, Biden will ‘discuss the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections against un-American attacks based on the Big Lie, and to again underline that doing so requires changing the rules of the Senate to make the institution work again,’ according to the White House.
Earlier this week, Manchin told reporters that he would support changing Senate rules so to make ‘the place work better.’
‘I’m not for breaking the filibuster, but I am for making the place work better by changing the rules,’ Manchin said.
In addition, Schumer warned his Democratic colleagues that they could lose their seats if they failed to support the bill.
‘We are working there are constant meetings and not just among the few senators, but just about every senator – every single one of the 50 [other than Manchin and Sinema] is talking individually to Joe Manchin to Kyrsten Sinema – and they’re saying things like: ‘I’ll lose my election if the legislature is allowed to do this in my state,” Schumer remarked on MSNBC.
Schumer concluded: ‘We lose our majority – but more importantly, we’ll lose our democracy. And those speakers yesterday that I mentioned were very powerful.’