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Biden heads to Georgia to push for voting rights law

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

President Joe Biden heads to Georgia today, where he’s expected to come out in favor of changing the rules in the US Senate to make it easier to pass voting rights legislation.

A senior administration source tells the AP that Biden will frame the push to change filibuster rules as “democracy over autocracy.” That source also says that Biden will come out in favor of changing those filibuster rules only to allow movement on voting rights legislation.

The current rules require 60 votes to break the filibuster. Democrats only have 50 votes in the Senate, and no Republican Senators have signaled they would support proposed voting rights packages. In addition, not all Senate Democrats have confirmed they’d back a change to filibuster rules.

Biden also faces criticism from some voting rights activists and groups, who have criticized the President as a weak advocate for voting rights. One high-profile Georgia Democrat who won’t be with Biden today is voting rights advocate and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, citing a schedule conflict.

While in Atlanta, Biden will also visit Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and he will lay a wreath at the graves of Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King. The choice of Georgia as a place to spotlight voting rights is an intentional one, and one filled with symbolism.

In addition to Atlanta’s historic connection to Dr. King and the civil rights movement, Georgia was a key battleground state in the 2020 election, and its two US Senate runoffs a year ago proved crucial to giving Democrats narrow control of the US Senate. And, in the wake of those elections, Georgia was one of several states that passed new laws that many say restrict access to voting.

Legislation passed in the US House of Representatives and awaiting Senate action could roll back some of the effects of those restrictions by creating national election standards that would trump state laws like Georgia’s and re-open a pathway for the US Department of Justice to challenge state election laws.

The push for voting rights legislation in the US Senate is expected to come to a head in the next week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has set Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a make-or-break deadline for the Senate to either change its filibuster rules or pass a voting rights bill.

Biden is expected to speak at around 3:40 p.m., and WUGA will carry the President’s remarks live.

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