(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden’s aggressive push to federalize election law is likely over after proposed legislation failed to pass the U.S. Senate and a second vote to end the filibuster also failed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, blasted Democrats from the Senate floor Thursday night, saying they should have overturned the filibuster rule to pass the legislation.
“I can understand Republicans [not supporting the bill], but this I do not understand. I do not understand why two Democrats who presumably understand the importance of the Freedom to Vote Act, and as I understand it, will vote for the Freedom to Vote Act, are not prepared to change the rules so that that bill could actually become law," who caucuses with Democrats, said. "That I do not understand.”
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., have been the focus of the debate and the target of Sanders’ comments. Sinema spearheaded the pushback, giving a speech that defied the president last week.
"There's no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation,” Sinema said from the Senate floor last week, responding to Biden’s Atlanta speech where he called for “getting rid of” the filibuster. “There's no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy. This week's harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year."
Biden addressed whether the stalled legislation was the end of his voting rights push during a press conference Thursday. When asked, he would not lay out what executive measures he may carry out, but said he has beefed up Department of Justice efforts to find illegal discrimination.
"We have begun to organize in ways that we didn’t before in communities beyond the civil rights community to make the case to the rest of American people what’s about to happen, what will happen if, in fact, these things move forward," he said.
The voting legislation has major implications for states, particularly those that have passed recent election integrity laws. Democrats have blasted laws like those passed in Georgia, though they are less restrictive in many ways than some other Democrat-led states.
“Democrats label anything they disagree with as racist. Georgia’s voting law does not prevent black people from voting like Senator Warnock says it does,” tweeted former football star Herschel Walker, who is Black and a Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, which has been the center of voting controversy. “This is not about voter suppression, it is about President Biden and the federal government wanting more power.”
Stacey Abrams, who has questioned election integrity in the past and is running for governor in Georgia, also responded to the bill’s defeat.
“52 Senators – two Democrats and all Republicans – failed their voters, allowing the filibuster to stand in the way of critical voting rights legislation,” she said. “But we are determined to continue this fight on the ground here in Georgia.”
Biden is also under fire for remarks during the same press conference where he balked on saying whether he believed the next election would be legitimate, something that received major pushback.
"Well, it all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election," Biden said when asked about whether he would trust the midterm election results. "And it’s one thing – look, maybe I’m just being too much of an optimist. Remember how we thought not that many people were going to show up to vote in the middle of a pandemic? We had the highest voter turnout in the history of the United States of America.
“I think you’re going to see the people who they’re trying to keep from being able to show up, showing up and making the sacrifice that needs to make in order to change the law back to what it should be,” he added.
Biden's comments sparked a flurry of criticism from critics who said the president acted irresponsibly by questioning the integrity of the election before it even occurred.
“Can you imagine the media outrage if President Trump said this?” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in response to the remarks.
Along with Georgia, Texas has been at the forefront of election law debates. Texas Democrats made national news when they fled the state for Washington, D.C., last year in an attempt to prevent Republican lawmakers in their home state from having the quorum necessary to pass new election security laws. Texas, along with states around the country, passed laws after questions over the security of the 2020 election with increased mail-in voting, ballot harvesting and billions of dollars from private groups that paid for things like ballot drop boxes.
Beto O’Rourke, former Democratic presidential candidate who is running for governor of Texas, has made voting changes a major campaign issue, touting it during a meet and greet in San Antonio this week.
“It’ll literally decide the future and the fate of the state of Texas,” he said. "So we’ve got to overcome this with great organizing and turnout. We are not going to win unless we show up … We’re going to be there and work to earn those votes so that we can win this race.”