PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden declared that preserving voting rights is an urgent national “test of our time” on Tuesday, as Texas Democrats took dramatic action to stymie Republican efforts to tighten ballot restrictions in their state.
Biden, who has proclaimed protecting ballot access the central cause of his presidency, has faced sharp criticism from allies for not doing more, though political headwinds and stubborn Senate math have greatly limited his ability to act. Despite his ringing words on Tuesday, he avoided any mention of trying to alter the Senate filibuster rule that stands in the path of federal legislation.
Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden called the efforts to curtail voting accessibility “un-American” and “un-democratic” and launched a broadside against his predecessor, Donald Trump, who baselessly alleged misconduct in the 2020 election after his defeat. Biden called passage of congressional proposals to override new state voting restrictions and to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act that were curbed in recent years by the Supreme Court “a national imperative.”
Yet, instead of raising the possibility of fighting the filibuster, he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the fading hopes for the bills, saying he would launch a nationwide campaign to arm voters with information on rules changes and restrictions ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
“We have to prepare now,” the president said.
Biden’s remarks came a day after Texas Democrats decamped for Washington in an effort to deny their GOP-controlled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass a bill placing new restrictions on voting in the state.
The lawmakers, who arrived in the nation’s capital Monday night, said they were prepared to stay in Washington — out of the reach of Texas law enforcement — until a special legislative session concludes early next month. It marks a dramatic new showdown over voting in America.
Standing near the steps of the US Capitol for a news conference ahead of a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democrats promised to “stay out and kill this bill.”