© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks during a visit to the northwest Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake, Ill., July 7, 2021. REUTERS / Evelyn Hockstein / file photo
From Steve Holland
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – President Joe Biden called it a “national imperative” on Tuesday, under pressure from US civil rights leaders, to pass a comprehensive suffrage bill that has stalled in Congress but does not outline a path to overcoming Republican opposition.
Numerous Republican-controlled states have introduced new election restrictions this year, a push encouraged by Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
In a passionate speech in a city believed to be the nation’s birthplace, Biden, without naming him, targeted Trump and his supporters for making false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from the Republican former president through widespread electoral fraud.
“So listen to me clearly: an attack is taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and undermine the right to vote in fair and free elections,” Biden told a cheering crowd in Philadelphia.
“The big lie is just that: a big lie,” said Biden, referring to unsubstantiated election fraud allegations by Trump and his allies.
“If you lose in America, accept the results, follow the Constitution. You try again. You are not misrepresenting facts or trying to destroy the American experiment just because you are unhappy. This is not statecraft. “Added Biden.
Republicans would have to “stand up for God’s sake” and reject voting restrictions, Biden said, adding a challenge: “Aren’t you ashamed?”
Suffrage legislation faces an uphill battle in Congress, with Biden’s Democrats being hampered by Senate Republicans who even blocked the debate. Biden’s focus on the issue allows him, even if the legislation fails, to rally Democratic voters while his party works to maintain control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.
Biden criticized what he called efforts to undermine the right to vote and compared it to previous laws that prevented blacks and women from voting in the United States.
“They want to make it so hard … that they hope people won’t vote at all. That’s what this is about, ”Biden said of the effort.
“We have to pass the ‘For the People Act’. It’s a national imperative, ”added Biden, referring to the legislation.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, at least 17 states have passed laws restricting electoral access this year, with more being considered.
Biden’s party and civil rights groups have spoken out against these restrictions, which critics have said are aimed at black, Hispanic and younger voters who helped vote Democrats. Many Republicans have instituted new restrictions as a means of combating electoral fraud, a phenomenon that, according to electoral experts, is rare in the United States.
Two of the nation’s fundamental documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, were signed in Independence Hall, just steps from the National Constitution Center where Biden delivered his speech.
Biden did not announce a new position on a Senate custom called filibuster, according to which most laws cannot move forward without the support of 60 members of the 100-seat chamber. The Senate is split 50:50 between the parties, with the Democrats in control because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a decisive vote.
Some proponents want Biden to back an agreement that would prevent the filibuster from blocking the voting law. Biden, who served in the Senate for decades, has resisted ending the filibuster.
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton told Reuters after the speech that Biden did not mention the filibuster and said he had just spoken to the president. “And he was just saying to me, ‘Al, we’re still working on where we’ll be.’ He’s not yet committed. ”
If passed, the Democrat-backed bill would expand the ability to vote before Election Day, make certain campaign contributions more transparent, and change the process of delineating the House of Representatives. Republicans said the move violated the powers of the states to pass their own electoral laws.
“After the Democrats failed to get the Democrats to take over our elections … Biden continues their dishonest attacks on efforts to ensure the integrity of common sense elections,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Danielle Álvarez. “Meanwhile, Republicans are engaged in state-led efforts to make voting and cheating easier, and polls show Americans overwhelmingly support these laws.”
Biden met with civil rights activists last week who urged him to keep fighting for the right to vote despite opposition from Republicans.
In Texas, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers left this state in an attempt on Monday https://www.reuters.com/world/us/texas-democratic-lawmakers-flee-state-thwart-voting-restrictions-2021-07-12 Republicans to pass election restrictions. Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday they plan to stay in Washington as long as necessary to derail state law and press for federal electoral reform.
Harris told Reuters that Texas lawmakers had shown “great courage”. She met with them after Biden’s speech.