Here's what President Joe Biden had to say about the Republican states' onslaught against voting rights, exemplified by the law enacted in Georgia Thursday: "What I'm worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It's sick. It's sick."
Biden added more in a statement Friday: "This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote." He promised, "I will take my case to the American people – including Republicans who joined the broadest coalition of voters ever in this past election to put country before party."
Attempting to instill a little shame into Republicans (probably an exercise in futility), Biden said, "If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote." In Thursday's press conference, Biden said he would do "everything in my power" to stop these restrictions, but wouldn't elaborate. "I'm not going to lay out a strategy in front of the whole world," he told a reporter in a follow-up. But what that strategy has to entail is the filibuster, specifically eliminating it as a roadblock to democracy.
Biden addressed that, too, Thursday, though somewhat obliquely. He once again endorsed the talking filibuster, saying that it would force senators "to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse" if they wanted to opposed a bill. "I strongly support moving in that direction," Biden said. Once again pressed on strategy and whether it should take 60 votes or 51 to break a filibuster, he demurred but suggested he would do whatever he needed to on critical issues like voting rights. "If we have to, if there's complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we'll have to go beyond what I'm talking about," Biden said.
Never mind that we've seen lockdown and chaos from Republicans since Mitch McConnell took the helm of the Senate, and that he'd nuke the filibuster in a heartbeat if he saw an advantage to it. Having the filibuster in place was actually advantageous for him while Donald Trump was around. McConnell could put ridiculous bills that appeased Trump on the floor, without any chance of them passing and angering the public. He simply had to refuse to bring any House-passed or Democratic bills to the floor, and was fine doing nothing but passing tax cuts and approving federal Trump-appointed judges. That's the only reason the legislative filibuster still exists.
The showdown over the filibuster is coming sooner rather than later and it will likely be over voting rights. Also on Thursday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he was bringing the bill to the floor as soon as next month. "Across the country, the Republican Party seems to believe that the best strategy for winning elections is not to win more voters but to try and prevent the other side from voting," Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday. "That's not America. That's not democracy. And this Senate will take action to protect the voting rights of tens of millions of Americans. The Senate will vote on the For the People Act."
"When the Senate returns, our agenda will be no less ambitious than it was over the past few months," Schumer said Thursday. "This Senate will once again be the forum where civil rights are debated and historic action is taken to secure them for all Americans." That includes S.1, the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, Biden's infrastructure and stimulus bills, gun safety legislation, and hate crimes legislation from Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, to focus on anti-Asian hate crimes.
Meanwhile, self-declared king Sen. Joe Manchin has issued his decree on what he would find acceptable in a law, proving that bipartisanship is more important to him than protecting voting rights. He says that he will only support legislation that is bipartisan because that's what's essential "to restore faith and trust in our democracy."
In that statement, the worst part of Manchin's posturing is revealed. He is granting legitimacy to the Big Lie, arguing that Republican legislatures have a valid interest in voter suppression because there was something in the 2020 election for Republicans voters to distrust. He insists that some of the minor provisions of S.1 could get "bipartisan" support, so says those are the ones he'd agree to, including a mandated 15 days of early voting which Republicans have routinely rejected. He ignores most of the major and critical provisions to restore democracy including gerrymandering reform, voter registration expansion and improvements, vote-by-mail access, voter purge prevention—all the things that Republicans have attacked in their voter suppression efforts.
Manchin is not acting in good faith here, not by a long shot. That he felt the need to issue this statement is at least something to take heart in—the pressure he's feeling over this issue is real.