‘Power has to be with the people’: Biden pushes stalled voting rights bills in an impassioned speech

President Biden emphatically insisted that preserving voting rights is an urgent national “test of our time” on Tuesday but offered few concrete proposals to meet it.

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Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden called local efforts to curb voting accessibility “un-American” and “undemocratic” and denounced his predecessor, Donald Trump and the GOP for embracing the “big lie” that the 2020 election was rigged.

“Some things in America should be simple and straightforward,” Biden said, noting that he was speaking in the birthplace of American democracy. “Perhaps the most fundamental of those is the right to vote.”

“The right to vote freely. The right to vote fairly. The right to have your vote counted,” he added.

Biden’s remarks came a day after Texas Democrats decamped for Washington in an effort to deny their GOP-controlled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass a bill placing new restrictions on voting in the state.

© Chip Somodevilla President Biden President Biden (Chip Somodevilla/)

“You can never prevent the American people from voting,” Biden told the campaign-style event of about 200 supporters. “Power has to be with the people.”

The president pounded the lectern and used some of his harshest rhetoric to denounce Republican efforts to restrict voting.

“The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It’s unrelenting,” he said. “We are going to challenge it vigorously”

Despite the sound and fury, Biden’s speech was short on specifics.

He did not explain how he might enact stalled voting rights measures, including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

He vowed the Justice Department would seek to block unjust new laws in GOP-run states, but courts have so far mostly sided with the states.

The legislative and procedural roadblocks have increased focus on Senate filibuster rules, which, if left in place, would seem to provide an insurmountable roadblock, requiring 60 votes in the evenly split, 100-member chamber to even bring up controversial legislation.

Many Democrats have expressed frustration with the lack of a greater White House push to change the filibuster, with civil rights activists stressing that Biden was elected with broad support from Black people whose votes are often put at risk by voting restrictions.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended Biden’s address, called it a “good speech,” but also said, “I told him that I was going to stay on him about the filibuster.”

With News Wire Services

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