Washington — President Biden is poised to visit Atlanta on Tuesday where he willto send to his desk legislation that will overhaul the nation’s voting rights laws to counter a raft of new changes pushed by Republicans at the state level.
Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the Atlanta University Center Consortium on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, located in the congressional district represented by the late John Lewis.
In their remarks, Mr. Biden and Harris are set to urge lawmakers to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which would establish national election standards, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would reinstate a core provision of the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 that required states with a history of racial discrimination to seek Justice Department approval before changing their election rules.
“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” the president will say, according to an excerpt from the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so, the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”
Traveling with Mr. Biden to Georgia is Senator Raphael Warnock and members of the state’s congressional delegation, as well as former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Absent from the president’s speech, though, will be Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, which Mr. Biden said before departing the White House is because of a scheduling mix-up.
The president told reporters the two are on the “same page,” and Abrams took to Twitter on Monday to applaud Mr. Biden for his visit and speech, thanking him for “for refusing to relent until the work is finished.”
Asked about the risk of not advocating for voting rights legislation given the difficult landscape in the Senate, Mr. Biden called it a “defining moment.”
“People are going to be judged: Where were they before and where were they after the vote. History is going to judge us,” he said. “The risk is making sure people understand just how important it is.”
The speech from the president is viewed by the White House as an extension of his condemnations of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol during remarks marking its one-year anniversary. The president usedlast week to pledge he would “allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.”
Mr. Biden’s visit and address in Atlanta is also aimed at the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he will soon bring the voting rights legislation to the floor despite expected unanimous opposition by Senate Republicans.
If Republicans filibuster the bills as expected, denying Democrats the 60 votes they need to advance legislation in the 50-50 Senate, Schumer has pledged to bring forward changes to the Senate rules that would lower the threshold for the measures to advance in the upper chamber with a simple majority.
“If Republicans refuse to join us in a bipartisan spirit — if they continue to hijack the rules of the Senate to turn this chamber into a deep freezer — we are going to consider the appropriate steps necessary to restore the Senate, so we can pass these proposals and send them to the president’s desk,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday.
But Schumer still faces an uphill battle to changing Senate rules that would make it easier for voting rights legislation to clear. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both moderate Democrats, generally oppose changing the chamber’s rules.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, accused Schumer of mounting “an attempt to attack the core identity of the Senate.”
McConnell also accused Democratic leaders of “trying to use a big lie to bully and berate their own members into breaking their word, breaking the rules, and breaking the Senate.”