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Obama firmly backs Biden’s call to change the filibuster to pass voting-rights legislation, blasts Senate Republicans for failing to protect democracy

Biden on Tuesday endorsed changes to the filibuster rules if voting rights bills continue to be blocked. Obama said he supports Biden's call. ...
barack obama
Former US President Barack Obama in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 8, 2022.

  • Barack Obama backed Joe Biden's call to alter Senate filibuster rules for voting rights legislation.
  • Obama said the filibuster cannot be "used to block efforts to protect our democracy."
  • Biden said he supports a change "to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights."

Former President Barack Obama has backed President Joe Biden's call for changes to Senate filibuster rules to aid the passage of legislation designed to support enshrining voting rights.

In an op-ed for USA Today, Obama said that democracy needs to be protected, including by altering filibuster rules so that Democrats can push to pass two pieces of voting legislation: The Freedom To Vote Act, a wide-ranging voting rights and democracy reform bill, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

He wrote that Democrats should be able to pass the voting rights bills "even if Senate Republicans now refuse to stand up for our democracy" by having a simple majority vote.

"The only thing standing in the way is the filibuster — a Senate procedure that allows a minority of just 41 Senators to prevent legislation from being brought up for a vote," he wrote.

Republicans have blocked two attempts by Democrats to pass the bills that defend voting rights, most recently in November 2021. 

Obama said that the "filibuster has no basis in the Constitution."

He said it had become "a routine way for the Senate minority to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters. But we can't allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy."

"That's why I fully support President Joe Biden's call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote.

Obama added that: "Every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the president's call as well."

joe biden
US President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on January 8, 2022.

Biden said on Tuesday that he supports altering filibuster rules if the filibuster continues to be used to block voting rights bills.

"I support changing the Senate rules whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights," Biden said. "When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the United States Senate."

He said that the Senate filibuster had become "weaponized" and "abused," and described it as a relic of the Jim Crow era.

Filibuster rules mean that 60 votes are needed to end debates on legislation, which means Democrats cannot currently advance legislation on their own.

Obama says Republicans are failing to protect democracy

In his op-ed, Obama also criticized Senate Republicans for what he said was a failure to protect democracy.

"Sadly, almost every Senate Republican who expressed concern about threats to our democracy in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection has since been cowed into silence or reversed their positions.

"When one of the bills in front of the Senate today was introduced in November, every Democrat supported it. And every Republican but one voted against moving it forward."

Democrats say rules that Republicans have introduced in several states have restricted access to voting, including by targeting Black voters. In his op-ed, Obama cited research by the Brennan Center for Justice, which found that 34 laws were passed across 19 states in 2021 to restrict access to voting in some way.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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