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Biden all but concedes defeat on voting, election bills

Biden all but concedes defeat on voting, election bills


Biden all but concedes defeat on voting, election bills

WASHINGTON — All but acknowledging defeat, President Joe Biden said Thursday he’s “not sure” his elections and voting rights legislation can pass Congress this year. He spoke at the Capitol after a key fellow Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, dramatically announced her refusal to go along with changing Senate rules to muscle past a Republican filibuster blockade.

Biden had ridden to the Capitol to prod Democratic senators in a closed-door meeting, but he was downbeat when he emerged. He vowed to keep fighting but was talking about next year for the sweeping legislation that critics say would give the federal government complete control over elections across the country and open the door to more voter fraud.

Sinema all but dashed the bill’s chances moments earlier, declaring just before Biden arrived on Capitol Hill that she could not support a “short sighted” rules change.

She said in a speech on the Senate floor that the answer to divisiveness in the Senate is not to change filibuster rules so one party, even hers, can pass controversial bills. “We must address the disease itself, the disease of division, to protect our democracy,” she said.

The moment once again leaves Biden empty-handed after a high-profile visit to Congress. Earlier forays did little to advance his other big priority, the “Build Back Better Act” of social and climate change initiatives. Instead, Biden returns to the White House with his second-year agenda languishing in Congress.

Biden spoke for more than an hour in private with restive Democrats in the Senate, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who also opposes changing Senate rules.

Since taking control of Congress and the White House last year, Democrats have vowed to counteract a wave of new state laws, inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, that have made it harder to vote. But their efforts have stalled in the narrowly divided Senate, where they lack the 60 votes out of 100 to overcome a Republican filibuster.

“In recent years, nearly every party-line response to the problems we face in this body, every partisan action taken to protect a cherished value has led us to more division, not less,” Sinema said from the Senate floor.

For weeks, Sinema and Manchin have come under intense pressure to support a rule change that would allow the party to pass their legislation with a simple majority — a step both have long opposed.

By taking to the Senate floor shortly before Biden's arrival, Sinema made clear she would not go along, further damaging the party's already slim chances to pass one of its top priorities.

Though Trump and other Republicans also pressed for filibuster changes when he was president, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Sinema’s speech an important act of “political courage” that could “save the Senate as an institution."