WASHINGTON – All but conceding defeat, U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday said he is now uncertain about the major Democratic elections and voting rights legislation that could pass Congress this year. . He was speaking at the Capitol after a key Democrat, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, announced his sudden refusal to go along with changing Senate rules to get the bill through. opposition from the Republican Party.
Biden went to Capitol Hill to urge Democratic senators in a closed-door meeting, but he was not optimistic when he emerged. He vowed to continue to fight for sweeping legislation that supporters say is important for protecting elections.
“The honest answer to God is I don’t know if we can get this done,” Biden said. He told reporters, his voice rising, “As long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m in, I’m going to fight.”
The cinema had ignored all chances of the bill minutes earlier, declaring shortly before Biden arrived on Capitol Hill that she could not support a “short-sighted” rule change.
She said in a speech on the Senate floor that the answer to divisions in the Senate and at home was not to change the relevant rules so that one side, even her own, could pass. controversial bills. “We must tackle this very disease, the disease of division, to protect our democracy,” she said.
The moment once again left Biden empty-handed after a high-profile visit to Congress. Previous efforts have failed to advance his other big priority, the “Building Back Better Act” on social initiatives and climate change. Instead, Biden returned to the White House with his agenda languishing before Congress.
Biden spoke privately for more than an hour with opposing Democrats in the Senate, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who also opposes changing Senate rules.
Manchin said in a later statement: “Ending filming would be an easy way out. I cannot support such a dangerous route for this country.”
Both senators arrived at the White House on Thursday night for an extra hour, which the White House later described as “a frank and respectful exchange of views.”
Since taking control of Congress and the White House last year, Democrats have vowed to fight a wave of new state laws inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election, making voting more difficult. But their efforts have stalled in the narrowly divided Senate, where they are 60 votes short of the 100 needed to pass a Republican vote.
For weeks, Sinema and Manchin have been under enormous pressure to support rule changes that would allow the party to pass their legislation with a simple majority – a step both have long opposed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Sinema’s speech an important act of “political courage” that could “save the Senate into an institution.” Her colleagues are not so charitable.
Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who once opposed changing Senate rules said, “She believes the risks of changing the movie outweigh the risks of what’s happening now. out in the states. I hope deeply that she is right. I fear that she is wrong.”
The Democratic Ethics and Voting Law package will usher in the biggest overhaul of US elections in a generation, reducing barriers to voting enacted in the name of election security. , reduce the influence of large sums in politics and limit partisan influence on congressional appeals to districts. This package will create national election standards that are superior to state-level GOP legislation. It would also restore the Justice Department’s ability to enforce police election laws in states with a history of discrimination.
Biden’s trip to the Capitol, where he served for decades as a senator for Delaware, is part of a week-long effort to amend the stalled legislation. On Tuesday, he gave a fiery speech in Atlanta, likening opponents of the legislation to racist historical figures and telling lawmakers they would be “judged by history.” .
Republicans almost unanimously opposed the legislation, seeing it as a federal act that would compromise the ability of states to conduct their own elections. And they pointed out that Democrats are opposed to changes to the objections Trump sought when he was president.
But for Democrats and Biden, the law is seen as a political imperative. Failure to pass it would break a major campaign promise for Black voters, who have helped Democrats control the White House and Congress, and will come just before the midterms when the Democrats Fragile Democratic numbers will be delivered.
During the caucus, Biden and the senators chatted in the spirit, the president drawing on his own years in the room, the senators said. He brought in questions and comments, including from Manchin, who expressed reluctance to change the Senate rules. Biden’s message to senators: It’s “an opportunity to do something that helps so many people at a time when it’s so much needed,” according to Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Democrats remain committed to forcing public opposition to the bill on the Senate floor, a bill that could take days and carry with it the echoes of civil rights battles a generation ago that led to several ministries most famous movie in Senate history.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer originally set the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Monday is the deadline to pass the ballot legislation or consider amending the filtering rules. But after a Democratic senator who tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolated, denied the party needed to vote, Schumer canceled a planned week of Senate recess and said that The debate will begin on Tuesday.
The Democrats also changed their legislative strategy as they sought to pressure Manchin and Sinema. Under their new approach, using a procedural shortcut, they will be able to debate the bill without being blocked by a video clip — a feat after Republicans used the method four times in the past year. recent months to prevent discussion.
It works like this: The House revised and passed an unrelated bill that was passed by both houses of Congress, combining Democratic voting proposals into one bill. Since that bill has already passed both houses, it could be called for debate in the Senate with a simple majority, although Senate Republicans could still block a final vote. to pass the bill.
“Members of this council were elected to debate and vote, especially on an issue as important to the beating heart of democracy as this one,” Schumer said late Thursday. .
Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock questioned the wisdom of Manchin and Sinema reflexively pursuing bipartisan rights.
“That can’t be the only thing that matters,” said Warnock, Georgia’s first black senator. “Slavery is bipartisan. Jim Crow segregation is bipartisan. Denial of women’s suffrage is bipartisan.”
Associated Press Writers Colleen Long and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.