Analysis: Did Joe Biden go too far in his speech on the right to vote? This Democratic senator thinks so.

“Do you want to be with Dr. King or George Wallace?” Biden asked. “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the time to decide, to defend our elections, to defend our democracy. If you do this you won’t be alone.”

For a Democratic senator, Biden’s rhetoric was over the top.

This is not a trivial criticism of the president. Durbin is a veteran of the House, who at one point was seen as a potential leader of the Senate Democrats. He is neither a malcontent nor a backbencher. And that he’s willing to publicly state his belief that Biden “went a little too far” is remarkable.

The question is whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (and Biden) can convince the 50 senators in the Democratic caucus to vote to change the rules that currently require 60 votes to end unlimited Senate debate in order to ‘bring a set of voting rights to the ground. for a vote.

Even before Biden delivered his speech — comparing Republicans’ current opposition to suffrage legislation to segregationists — it seemed like an unlikely proposition. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, both Democrats, have made it clear that they do not support eliminating the filibuster for any type of legislation – down to measures on the right to vote that Schumer advocates. Other Democrats like Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also all seem to be on the fence about the filibuster.

It’s worth wondering then whether the president has hindered rather than helped efforts to get all 50 Democratic votes on board with the filibuster change. (Biden traveled to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with Senate Democrats about the fate of voting rights.)

Sinema, in an impassioned speech to the Senate on Thursday, reiterated his opposition to changing the filibuster rules.

“When one side only has to negotiate with itself, politics will be inextricably pushed from the middle to the extremes,” she said. “I understand there are some on both sides of the aisle who prefer that, but I don’t. Arizonans don’t.”

Now, it should be noted that even before Biden’s speech on Tuesday, the prospects for changing the filibuster rules to manage voting rights were highly uncertain. Manchin and, to a lesser extent, Sinema, had been adamant — and publicly — about not getting rid of the filibuster using only Democratic votes.

So it’s possible that Biden’s speech had little real negative effect on his intended audience. But that certainly doesn’t seem to have helped him either.

And Republicans — led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — immediately jumped on Biden’s tone to argue he had gone too far. McConnell called the speech “rant”, “incoherent”, “incorrect” and “pure, pure demagoguery”. He also said it was “deeply anti-presidential.”

McConnell will also likely use Biden’s new overture to rid himself of the filibuster of suffrage legislation as a way to motivate the Republican base ahead of this year’s midterm elections – noting what a controlled Senate by Democrats in 2023 could mean for conservative priorities and principles.

Given all of this, it seems — at least in the short term — that Biden’s speech earlier this week did more harm than good for his efforts to persuade the Senate to get rid of the filibuster. Which, of course, is the opposite of what he was presumably looking for.


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