Black leaders and voters are becoming impatient with President Joe Biden and Democrats in general after the party has so far failed to pass voting rights legislation, failing last week for the third time since taking power in January after being blocked again by Republicans.
Upon taking office, Biden signed a number of executive orders aimed at promoting so-called “equity” throughout the federal government. However, he made substantial promises to the black community during his campaign, but the slim Democrat majorities in Congress have yet to see them through.
After nine months in office and not one voting rights bill making it to Biden for signature, there is new pressure rising on the president to produce results, especially as polling shows Democrats in real danger of losing control of one or both chambers of Congress during next year’s midterm elections, The Hill reported Friday.
Derrick Johnson, the CEO and president of the NAACP, chastised Biden and his party in a statement after Democrats failed to overcome GOP opposition in a cloture vote on the Freedom to Vote Act on Wednesday.
“Don’t forget that Black voters landed a victory for this President and this Congress, so don’t fail us again,” he warned.
Meanwhile, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House principal deputy press secretary, noted Thursday that there have been some legislative failures regarding both voting and police reform. However, she went on to note several other ways in which the Biden administration is working to implement policies that are otherwise important to black Americans.
For instance, she cited financial investments in historically black colleges — which actually began under former President Donald Trump — as well as some housing reforms and other efforts at implementing equity via Biden’s economic proposals including his American Rescue Plan.
“Our agenda for the black community is not about one or two bills. Clearly, those bills are critical and important, and we’re going to continue to work very hard towards them, but it is weaved throughout numerous policy initiatives, executive orders, legislation,” she told reporters during a press briefing, going on to note that “equity” remains central to everything Biden is trying to do.
The Hill noted that Democrats during the current congressional session have introduced three pieces of legislation — the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the For The People Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act — which are aimed at reversing voting integrity legislation that has passed in several Republican-controlled states in the wake of a chaotic post-2020 election cycle in which allegations of voting irregularities were rampant.
The Democrat-controlled House has passed all three bills but they have gotten nowhere in the 50-50 Senate because Republicans have refused to support them, claiming they are designed to federalize most elections and give Democrats distinct advantages.
Failure to advance the voting reforms and other major elements of Biden’s agenda has led far-left Democrats in both chambers to call on the party to ditch the filibuster rule in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to begin and end debate on bills. Republicans have pushed back, however, as have two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Also, Democrats were against calls by then-President Trump to end the rule during his tenure, when the GOP controlled the upper chamber by a slim margin.
On Thursday during a rocky town hall event sponsored by CNN, Biden suggested again that he was open to eliminating the filibuster, though as a long-serving senator from Delaware before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president and president, he also opposed changing the rule.
But he added that he does not want to get into a heated debate over the filibuster because he does not want to put negotiations over his economic agenda at risk.
“If, in fact, I get myself into at this moment a debate on the filibuster, I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, foreign policy side of the equation,” Biden told the audience.
In terms of voting rights legislation, Jean-Pierre said that remains “a priority” for the president.
But Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said in an interview with The Hill that words don’t mean much at this point.
“You either mean it or you don’t. If you mean it, then you’ve got to end or modify the filibuster in order to advance this legislation that you’re so busy telling us is so important. We believe it’s important, but their actions aren’t demonstrating that,” Albright told the outlet.
“Everything that we’ve seen and heard from the administration tells us that it simply is not a priority for them, and they don’t think it’s important,” he noted further. “They think that we’ll just be able to out-organize [voter suppression], and they’re not willing to spend the political capital on getting it passed.”
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