On Tuesday (July 13), President Joe Biden delivered a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia, framing the issue as a moral fight in our nation’s history.
Biden said pushing back against restrictive voting laws was the “most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.” He also called out his predecessor’s false claims of election fraud and called on Republicans “to stand up” and get federal voting rights legislation passed.
“Help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote,” Biden said in his speech at the National Constitution Center. “Have you no shame?”
Biden’s speech comes as Texas Democrats fled to Washington D.C. to avoid a vote on an elections restriction bill and urge federal lawmakers to pass the For the People Act.
That bill and the John Lewis Voting Right Act are both currently stalled in Congress.
Some voting rights advocates said Biden’s silence on eliminating the filibuster in the Senate was loudly heard. After delivering his remarks, Biden said “I’m not filibustering now,” as reporters shouted questions at him.
“It was strange to hear,” Eli Zupnick, a spokesperson for Fix Our Senate, told The New York Times. “He did a great job of laying out the problem, but then stopped short of talking about the actual solution that would be needed to passing legislation to address the problem,” Zupnick said.
Biden’s remarks did acknowledge the upcoming midterm elections, calling on voters to “prepare now.”
“We’re going to face another test in 2022,” the president said. “A new wave of unprecedented voter suppression, and raw and sustained election subversion. We have to prepare now.”
Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the push for federal voting rights legislation and said he would launch an initiative “to educate voters about the changing laws, register them to vote and then get the vote out.”
Since the General Election, hundreds of Republican-sponsored voting restriction bills have been introduced in over 40 states. Georgia, Florida, and Arizona each passed their own elections bills that disproportionately impact voters with low incomes, and Black, Indigenous, and Latino voters. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona Republicans who instituted voting restrictions in the state.
Biden said despite the high court’s ruling, lawmakers still need to act.
“The court’s decision, as harmful as it is, does not limit the Congress’ ability to repair the damage done,” Biden said. Without the elimination of the filibuster, however, the pathway to getting the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on Biden’s desk is almost certainly blocked.