Jan 12, 2022 - Politics

Biden takes his full-court press on voting to Georgia

Joe BIden at a podium
Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Another day, another political spotlight on Georgia.

Driving the news: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris chose Atlanta as the backdrop for their full-court press on the U.S. Senate to pass Democratic voting bills, even if it means changing the chamber's rules to do it.

Why Georgia: Biden and Harris cited the state's storied civil rights icons in their speeches and laid a wreath at the tombs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King earlier in the afternoon.

  • But more recently it's Georgia's Republican-led election law that Biden called an example of “the undemocratic way” he hopes to supersede with federal action.
  • Biden bluntly tied the history to the past, asking Republicans if they'd rather be on the side of King or segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace on the issue.

The big picture: As expected, it is federal voting legislation that has forced the question of whether to find a way around the Senate's filibuster rule, which has been used by Republicans to stall the voting bills.

  • Republican Minority leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to retaliate if Democrats do so.
  • The filibuster rule requires 60 Senators to vote to move forward with any legislation.

What they said: “I'm tired of being quiet,” Biden told a crowd at Atlanta University Center.

  • “I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these bills,” Biden said. “We have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”
  • “The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act,” Harris said.

Reality check: It's not clear Democrats have the votes for this. In a 50/50 Senate, every vote matters. Or as Biden put it, “there are 51 presidents" effectively with veto power.

  • Several Georgia activists boycotted Biden's visit, to protest “another speech” instead calling for actual legislative progress, as Axios' Alexi McCammond reported.

Meanwhile: Republicans held their own counter-programming Tuesday. Gov. Brian Kemp vowed to continue defending the state's new voting law in court. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger proposed his own federal voting changes, including national voter ID laws.

What's next: As the Georgia General Assembly kicks off another session, voting policy seems as politicized as ever.

  • And Georgians can expect more proposed changes to the state's election laws, including Republican proposals to ban absentee ballot drop boxes altogether and to allow citizens to choose paper ballots over electronic machines.
  • In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to take up changes to the Senate's rules before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
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