Biden plans to support changing the filibuster to get voter-rights law through the Senate, reports say

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. Alex Brandon/AP Photo
  • President Joe Biden will back changing the Senate’s filibuster rule to pass voting rights legislation. 
  • The rule has been used by Republicans to block voting rights bills. 
  • Democrats say voting rights are under attack by restrictive rules passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures. 

President Joe Biden plans to lend his support to changing the Senate filibuster rules in order to pass new voting-rights legislation, multiple reports said.

Biden is due to outline this stance in a Tuesday speech in Atlanta, Georgia, The New York Times reported. The White House confirmed the plans to Reuters

The president will not call for totally getting rid of the filibuster, a senior administration official told the Times, but for a temporary suspension of the rule in order to push through a voting rights bill. 

A White House official told CNN that the rules needed to be changed to pass voting-rights legislation so that “this basic right is defended.”

A bill to defend voting rights is one of Biden’s key domestic priorities, with Democrats accusing Republican-controlled state legislatures across the US of seeking to restrict access to voting. Democrats argue that the bills specifically target Black voters in states such as Georgia, and Biden has likened them to the racist Jim Crow laws of the segregationist South. 

The issue has gained added urgency in recent weeks with Biden’s other key domestic priority, his Build Back Better social and climate change bill, stalled in the Senate amid the opposition of Democratic moderate Sen. Joe Manchin. 

But Republicans have blocked two attempts by Democrats to pass bills defending voting rights, most recently in November. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that the bills are an attempt by Democrats to secure an unfair advantage at the ballot, and violate the right of states to decide how they conduct elections. 

Republicans have blocked the bills using the filibuster, a blocking measure that can only be overcome with 60 or more votes. But with only have a razor thin one vote majority in the Senate, which is split 50-50 and where Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie breaker, Democrats have been unable to advance the bills. 

The impasse in December led Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to declare that Democrats would seek to reform the filibuster. However the move would require the unanimous backing of Democratic senators in order to pass, and Manchin alongside fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said that they would not support a bid to alter the filibuster.