President Joe Biden suggested during a Tuesday speech that opponents of two elections bills pushed by Democrats are similar to segregationists.
The two bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, would successfully nationalize election laws by reimposing a legal provision allowing the Justice Department to challenge state laws as discriminatory. The bills would also mandate large-scale early voting and absentee ballot provision, as well as prohibit bans on ballot-harvesting. Neither bill is supported by Republicans, leading Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to call for the elimination of the filibuster to pass them.
Both former senators had defended the filibuster throughout their careers in the upper chamber.
“Every senator, Democrat, Republican and Independent, will have to declare where they stand. Not just for the moment but for the ages,” Biden said about the two proposals.
“History has never been kind to those who’ve sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights, and it will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion. So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered? Consequential moments in history, present a choice. Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? The side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? The side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
As a young senator, Biden was known to be close to several southern Democrats in support of segregation and opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden defended his relationships with Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, Mississippi Sen. James Eastland, and South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings.
In addition to Republican opposition to the bills, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have repeatedly said that they will not vote to scrap the filibuster to pass them. It seems as though Biden was comparing the members of his own party to segregationists. Several prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, have declared the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic.”