220112 Biden
US President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, part of both Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University on January 11, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Image Credit: AFP

Atlanta: President Joe Biden on Tuesday made an impassioned plea for US voting rights legislation stalled in Congress and said Democratic lawmakers should make a major change in Senate rules to override Republican opposition.

Calling it a “battle for the soul of America,” Biden put the voting rights effort on par with the fight against segregation by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

He also likened it to the struggle against the forces behind the assault on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, by supporters of former President Donald Trump, which Biden called an “attempted coup.” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris stood before King’s gravesite as his family stood nearby, heads bowed.

Then they both spoke at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, two historically Black schools, to call for passage of legislation currently being held up in Congress by Republican senators who have uniformly refused to support it.

“Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president, to protect America’s right to vote.

Not one, Biden said, referring to Trump.

Biden said if no breakthrough on the legislation can be achieved, lawmakers in the Senate should “change the rules including getting rid of the filibuster for this.” The filibuster is a parliamentary manoeuvre to require a 60-vote majority in the Senate for passage instead of a simple majority.

“Sadly the United States Senate, designed to be the greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self,” Biden said.

It was Biden’s most direct plea to date for the Senate to change its rules.

“Hear me plainly,” said Biden. “The battle for the soul of America is not over. We must stand strong and stand together to make that Jan. 6 does not mark the end of our democracy but begins the renaissance of our democracy.” “Pass the Freedom to Vote act. Pass it now to prevent voter suppression,” he said.