Biden issues urgent new call to protect the right to vote

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both traveled to Georgia Tuesday to pressure Congress to pass long-stalled federal voting rights legislation. NewsHour’s Geoff Bennett has the story.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both traveled to Georgia today to up the pressure on Congress to pass long-stalled voting rights legislation.

    Geoff Bennett begins our coverage.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    President Joe Biden today with an urgent new call to protect the right to vote.

  • President Joe Biden:

    To protect our democracy, I support changing the Senate rules.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    The president throwing his full support behind a one-time change to the Senate filibuster to ease passage of voting rights legislation.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills. Debate them. Vote. Let the majority prevail. And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    But that requires the support of all 50 Democratic senators. And West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema aren't on board. And Republicans are nearly unanimous in opposing the bills as government overreach.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas:

    It's a power grab to enable a power grab.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are promoting what he calls fake outrage and fake hysteria on voting rights ginned up by partisans.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    If my colleague tries to break the Senate to silence those millions of Americans, we will make their voices heard in this chamber in ways that are more inconvenient for the majority and this White House than what anybody has seen in living memory.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    The White House insists President Biden will work in lockstep with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who promised a vote on voting rights legislation as soon as tomorrow. Schumer warns that, if Republicans filibuster the effort, he will force another vote by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    Failure is not an option for the democracy of America.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    President Biden's choice of Georgia for today's major voting rights speech is no accident. It served the cradle of the civil rights movement and home to two of the nation's most prominent civil rights leaders, Dr. King, whom the president honored today, laying a wreath at his crypt and with a visit to King's pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the late Congressman John Lewis, who represented the district where the president delivered his address.

    And the state is ground zero for the current challenge. After President Biden beat former President Trump in Georgia by less than 12,000 votes in 2020, the state became one of the first to pass more restrictive voting laws.

    Supporters point to one measure, an additional day of early voting, as the law increasing voter access. But other provisions take aim at mail-in voting, implement stricter voter I.D. requirements, and limit the use of ballot drop boxes.

    Georgia is now one of 19 states that have passed tougher voting laws since the 2020 election. Taken together, the president has said the laws are the biggest threat to democracy since the Civil War.

  • President Joe Biden:

    Each one of the members in the Senate is going to be judged by history, on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote. There's no escape.

    So, let's get back to work.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And he says he is bracing for a bruising fight ahead to take action.

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