Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday offered a blistering rebuke of President Biden’s speech in Georgia, in which the president pushed for voting rights and changing the legislative filibuster, saying that it was “abandoning rational persuasion for pure demagoguery.”
“Look, I’ve known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday. … The president’s rant, rant, yesterday was incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
“Yesterday, with the world’s largest megaphone, he invoked the literal Civil War and said we are on the doorstep of autocracy. Talked about domestic enemies. Rhetoric unbecoming of a president of the United States,” he added.
McConnell’s remarks come a day after Biden traveled to Georgia to make a high-profile case for Senate Democrats changing the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to advance, in order to pass election and voting legislation. Republicans have blocked three such bills over the past year.
Biden, as part of his speech, framed the fight over voting rights as a matter of historical significance, suggesting lawmakers must decide whether they want to “be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis,” referencing the former U.S. president and the president of the Confederacy, respectively.
McConnell and Biden served together when Biden was in the Senate and cut deals together during the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.
But Biden, speaking in Georgia, argued that while he was an institutionalist, the Senate was broken. McConnell fired back on Wednesday, arguing that Biden got a mandate to “bridge a divided country, lower the temperature and dial down the perpetual air of crisis in our politics.”
“President Biden has chosen to fail his own test,” McConnell added.
Biden will meet with Senate Democrats on Thursday to again push them to pass voting rights legislation and change the legislative filibuster. To do that, they’ll need total unity from all 50 Democratic senators, something they don’t yet have. But Democrats view voting rights and legislation to overhaul federal elections as must-pass items as GOP-controlled state legislatures enact new voting rules in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, which former President Trump has falsely claimed was “stolen.”
Democrats haven’t yet landed on a filibuster reform proposal as around-the-clock negotiations continue amongst members of the caucus. One option includes moving to a talking filibuster, where opponents could delay the bill for as long as they could hold the floor, but legislation would ultimately be able to pass with a simple majority. They are also mulling a carveout that would exempt voting rights legislation from needing 60 votes to advance.
As part of their efforts to sway Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who are holdouts on voting to change the rules along party lines, Democrats are warning that the state-based laws could mean that Democrats lose reelection.
“They’re saying things like I’ll lose my election if the legislature is allowed to do this in my state, we’ll lose our majority,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”