As President Joe Biden travels to Georgia this week to push for federal voting rights legislation, it appears he will be bringing with him the new tone he adopted during his forceful speech commemorating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
“We are doubling down, kicking it into another gear, we are going right to the belly of the beast, or ground zero, for voter suppression, voter subversion and obstruction,” Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Biden and director of the Office of Public Engagement, told Politico of the forthcoming speech.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak in Atlanta on Tuesday ahead of a major vote in the Senate later this month on whether to alter the chamber’s rules to allow for passage of critical voting rights legislation that Senate Republicans have blocked. Biden is expected to “unequivocally back that effort” in his speech, according to Politico, as part of a campaign to pressure two recalcitrant Democratic senators into backing the reforms.
Although Biden has twice signaled an openness to either filibuster reform or a carve-out of some sort, the president seems poised to utilize his Atlanta speech to make a more urgent case for such an action in the same way he used the Jan. 6 speech to systematically dismantle Donald Trump’s 2020 lie.
“It’s really about the fact that there’s a vote coming up,” said Richmond. “The Senate leader has voiced his plan. We supported his plan, and we’re going to use the White House to try to galvanize the votes.”
Georgia now lies at the center of a modern-day voting rights clash after state GOP lawmakers pushed through legislation the Justice Department has determined disenfranchises voters of color. Perhaps even more concerning, the new law effectively allows the Republican majority in the legislature to veto any future electoral outcome they don’t like.
Biden is currently president in no small part because Georgia’s voters of color turned out in historic numbers last November to flip the state Democratic for the first time since 1992. That groundswell of support also proved critical to flipping both of the Peach State’s U.S. Senate seats blue in a double runoff earlier this year.
Voting rights activists in Georgia have grown frustrated with what they view as Biden’s lack of commitment to passing federal legislation that would beat back GOP voter suppression laws at the state level. Last week, a quartet of those groups issued a statement warning the president not to come to Atlanta without a plan to pass federal legislation protecting voter access to the ballot box.
But Biden’s combative speech last week blasting Trump’s election fraud lies appears to have marked a turning point in the president’s focus on trying to save the country from the GOP plot to subvert the will of the people.
Richmond says Biden has been having one-on-one talks with lawmakers, including a group of senators who have been trying to find a filibuster workaround for several bills aimed at protecting both the right to vote and the integrity of the vote.
“He’s been working the phones on voting rights,” Richmond said.