WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden called out two fellow Democrats on Tuesday in explaining why he hasn’t enacted some of the most ambitious elements of his agenda, noting that slim majorities in the House and evenly divided Senate have hamstrung legislative negotiations around key issues like voting rights.
Biden, speaking during an event marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, responded to critics who question why he hasn’t been able to get a wide-reaching voting rights bill passed.
“Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House, and a tie in the Senate — with two members of the Senate who voted more with my Republican friends,” he lamented.
It appeared to be a veiled reference to Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have frustrated Democrats with their defense of the filibuster — the rule requiring most legislation to win 60 votes to pass, making many of Democrats’ biggest priorities like voting rights and gun control bills dead on arrival in the 50-50 Senate. While Sinema is a sponsor of the voting rights bill that passed the House, known as the For the People Act, Manchin has refused to sign on, calling the measure “too broad.”
Despite the logjam in Congress, Biden promised further action to address what he described as “a tireless assault on the right to vote,” comments that came in response to the latest effort by a state legislature to pass a law restricting voting access, this time in Texas. He said he would “fight like heck, with every tool at my disposal” to ensure the passage of the For the People Act when the Senate takes it up this month. He tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with leading the administration’s efforts to defend voting rights.
Biden also called on voting rights groups to “redouble” their efforts to register and educate voters and said June should be a “month of action” on Capitol Hill.
Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press