Durbin says Biden may have gone 'a little too far' in Georgia speech

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) addresses reporters after the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) addresses reporters after the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.


Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said Wednesday that President Biden may have gone "a little too far" with his rhetoric during a speech in Georgia the previous day advocating voting rights legislation.

During his speech, Biden called for the Senate to pass several pieces of legislation, including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, while endorsing changes to the Senate filibuster in order to advance the bills.

The president put pressure on lawmakers who have opposed making changes to the Senate rules, suggesting they had a choice to side either with advocates for voting rights or historical figures who backed segregation and the Confederacy.

"Do you want to be ... on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?" Biden said in Georgia.

"It is stark, and I will concede that point," Durbin said during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Wednesday after the host noted the comparison made by Biden.

Still, the Senate majority whip argued that "there are parallels there" in what Biden had referenced, arguing Republicans have tried to make it harder for Americans to vote and suggesting a parallel with past historical attempts to keep Black Americans from voting.

"Perhaps the president went a little too far in his rhetoric. Some of us do, but the fundamental principles and values at stake are very, very similar," Durbin said.

"[D]on't overlook the reality that in 20 different states governed and led by Republicans in legislature and the governorship ... each and every one of them - they are taking step by weary step to make sure that Americans, fewer Americans are going to vote," he added in the interview.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday blasted Biden over his speech, likening his remarks to a "rant," which he panned as "incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office."

Biden has stepped up pressure on Senate Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, but two key holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), have maintained they do not want to get rid of the chamber's filibuster, which requires 60 votes to advance most legislation.

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