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Biden says the Senate is 'a shell of its former self' in call to remove the filibuster for voting rights legislation

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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States
Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
  • President Joe Biden, a self-described "institutionalist," put the Senate on notice Tuesday.

  • Biden said the Senate "has been rendered a shell of its former self."

  • He called for Congress to make an exception to the filibuster, which is a 60-vote threshold to advance legislation.

President Joe Biden, one of the biggest proponents of the US Senate as "the world's greatest deliberative body," spoke in some of the harshest terms of his career on its contribution to gridlock in Washington as part of his push to advance voting rights legislation.

"Sadly, the United States Senate, designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self," Biden said Tuesday in a speech from Georgia. "It gives me no satisfaction in saying that as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate. But as an institutionalist, I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave, that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills."

Long cautious about such a move, Biden finally called for removing the filibuster — a 60-vote threshold to pass legislation instead of a 51-vote majority — at least when it comes to voting rights.

"Debate them. Vote. Let the majority prevail," Biden said. "And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this."

Biden called on Congress to pass two bills: The Freedom To Vote Act, a voting rights and democracy reform bill, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court has weakened over time.

Democrats' push to pass the pair of voting-rights bills comes after Republican-led state legislatures across the country, including Georgia, passed new laws in 2021 that tighten voting access and politicize the election administration process.

Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked both pieces of legislation, decrying them as an attempt by the federal government to take over state election administration processes.

Biden expressed frustration with GOP senators over their inaction on voting rights legislation.

"I've been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the past two months," the president said. "I'm tired of being quiet."

He added, "The filibuster's not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart."

Republican lawmakers have also rejected any proposals to alter Senate rules in order to pass the bills. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said such a move would "permanently damage the institution from within."

"A group of politicians are trying to set aside election results, overrule American voters, and break our institutions to get a political outcome they want," the top Republican said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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