President Biden has said he backs creating a carveout in the Senate filibuster to pass sweeping election reform legislation over united Republican opposition.
“The only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster. I support making an exception on voting rights for the filibuster,” Biden told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir in an interview.
The president said the bill is important enough to change Senate rules and allow Democrats to bypass the usual 60-vote threshold to approve legislation in the 50-50 divided Senate.
“That means whatever it takes. Change the Senate rules to accommodate major pieces of legislation without requiring 60 votes,” Biden said in the interview, portions of which aired Wednesday evening on “World News Tonight.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this week said he would take up voting reform legislation when Congress begins its new session in January and will move to change the chamber’s rules if Republicans continue their opposition.
“If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation,” Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a letter to colleagues.
Bypassing the filibuster would allow Senate Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority, but moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have opposed using the maneuver.
Democrats contend that Republican-led states are passing bills that will restrict voting rights for minorities as former President Donald Trump continues to claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
According to the progressive Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states have passed 34 laws that the center says restrict voting access this year. Progressives say the measure under consideration would nullify laws in states like Texas, Georgia and Florida that enhanced voter ID measures and restricted the availability of absentee and mail-in ballots.
The legislation also includes proposals endorsed by Manchin, including a provision that would limit — but not prohibit — state voter ID requirements. The measure is also aimed at establishing national rules for running elections, banning partisan gerrymandering, and forcing the disclosure of many anonymous campaign donors.
Critics contend the legislation amounts to an unconstitutional power grab by Democrats in an effort to seize control of election mechanisms.
Biden suggested during a CNN town hall in October that Democrats will have to “fundamentally alter” the filibuster to pass his administration’s legislative agenda.
In a speech last week at South Carolina State University, Biden warned of what he called an “unrelenting assault on the right to vote” and said “we have to protect that sacred right” by passing the legislation.
“Each and every time it gets to be brought up, that other team blocks the ability even to start to discuss it. That other team — it used to be called the Republican Party,” Biden said. “But this battle is not over.”