Biden Rallies For Voting Rights Push Amidst Stalled Economic Agenda

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Voting rights

The push for voting rights legislation comes as Biden’s $2 trillion economic agenda grinds to a halt due to intra-party feuds.

President Joe Biden said he would support Senate Democrats pursuing voting rights legislation if they had the numbers, as his almost $2 trillion economic agenda has been caught in intra-party strife and may be deferred until the new year.

The bill dubbed as Build Back Better has been stalled due to West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s reservations on various provisions. With that bill’s road to passage potentially jammed, Democrats are also considering resurrecting a long-stalled bill to extend voting rights and possibly amending Senate rules to make it harder for Republicans to use filibusters to block legislation.

Voting rights “single-biggest issue.”

When asked whether Democrats should focus on voting rights and put the spending plan on hold until the new year, Biden stated simply that they should enact voting rights changes if possible.

“If we can get the congressional voting rights done, we should do it. If we can’t, we got to keep going,” he added as he assessed storm wreckage in Kentucky. “There’s nothing domestically more important than voting rights. It’s the single biggest issue.”

Voting rights
Voting rights

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had vowed to pass Biden’s almost $2 trillion bill on social spending and climate measures before congress left town for the Christmas vacation. However, Democrats were planning to postpone any vote on Wednesday, citing the bill’s persistent impasse owing to Democratic wranglings and Senate parliamentarian scrutiny.

However, deferring the bill until next year without a set deadline risks undermining the legislation’s impetus, which Democrats have been working on for the better part of the year. It has already enraged some progressives in the House, who sought to delay the president’s infrastructure bill until the economic package was assured of passage in the 50-50 Senate, where Manchin is a crucial vote.

Manchin has consistently conveyed reservations about the cost and economic impact of the legislation necessary to implement the president’s social spending and climate mitigation policies. He also takes issue with several of the plan’s climate-related measures. For example, Manchin has been directly negotiating with Biden. Still, those negotiations have gone poorly, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the nature of the discussions.

Manchin stated on Wednesday that he is opposed to a one-year extension of the child tax credit. He said that it conceals the actual cost and should be expanded for ten years, if at all. However, this would consume the bulk of the legislation’s $1.75 trillion maximum and necessitate the deletion or significant revision of various other measures.

Manchin was quoted as stating that It is not him and that all he’s saying is that whatever Dems have to choose – He’s not in control – they have to choose. 

Democrats’ dilemma over necessary priorities

Democrats demonstrated a strong resolve to focus on voting legislation, given new impetus following state legislatures’ redistricting decisions. Senator Bernie Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee’s chairman, stated that the issue must be addressed “immediately.”

Voting rights
Voting rights

Sanders added he’d prefer to see Build Back Better addressed as soon as possible, but if it can’t be done soon, it’s far more critical that they address the voting rights issue.

Vice President Kamala Harris also called for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act in a Wednesday interview with SiriusXM’s “Signal Boost.” 

She stated that one of the most significant issues they have right now is defending the integrity of the right to vote.

Republicans, on the other hand, have repeatedly stalled action on the Democrats’ voting rights bill in the Senate, where most legislation requires 60 votes to proceed. Manchin and Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema have both stated their opposition to the filibuster rule being repealed.

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, contested why the economic package should be prioritized over voting rights legislation and vice versa.

Jayapal wrote in a tweet that both of the legislations are critical priorities. And she can’t wrap her head around why there would be a need to pit them against each other? For her, it’s not Build Back Better or voting rights. It’s BOTH — and it’s time. So they can and must deliver.

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