In a major speech at Morehouse College Tuesday, President Biden made a powerful rhetorical case for his two flagship voting rights bills and even called for changing the filibuster to help get them passed. Some commentators and activists, though, doubt the president's ability to get the bills through Congress.
The Hill reported Monday that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had "blocked an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to set up simple majority votes" on the two bills. With the failure of Schumer's proposal, Democrats will need 60 votes to pass the bill, a near-impossibility in the evenly divided Senate.
"While he really tried to frame it, if we're looking at it honestly, as good versus evil … he didn't really say what specifically he's doing beyond changing his stance on the filibuster to ensure that this gets across the line," Washington Post reporter Cleve R. Wootson Jr. said on the newspaper's YouTube stream of the speech.
In a Sunday column for The New York Times, Ezra Klein also expressed doubt that Congress would be able to pass Biden's voting rights agenda. "Neither bill, as of now, has a path to President Biden's desk," he wrote.
After Biden's massive Build Back Better bill failed to pass last month, there is immense pressure on the president to get his voting rights agenda through Congress. It could be his last chance to score a major political win, should Republicans re-take the House in the 2022 midterms.
A coalition of Georgia voting rights groups boycotted Biden's speech and urged the president not to deliver it, demanding "action," not "more photo ops." Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams skipped the speech due to an unspecified schedule conflict, one of Abrams' aides told The New York Times. Abrams is the founder of the New Georgia Project, one of the voting rights groups that dismissed Biden's visit as "political platitudes" and "bland promises."