Biden says he’s “not sure” about voting bills’ future after Sinema reiterates opposition to rule change

President Biden met with Senate Democrats on Thursday afternoon, saying “as long as I’m in the White House…I’m going to fight for these bills,” hours after Senator Kyrsten Sinema, one of the two Democrats of the Senate known to oppose changes to Senate rules, said Thursday on the Senate floor that she would not change her position.

His remarks come moments before Mr. Biden meeting at lunchtime with Senate Democrats in which he encouraged lawmakers to revise Senate rules to allow ballot bills to pass by simple majority, rather than 60 votes. Following that meeting, the president told reporters he hoped they could pass the legislation, but he was “not sure” they could.

“Like all other major civil rights bills, if we missed the first time, we could come back and try a second time. We missed this time. We missed this time,” he said. “…I don’t know if we can make it happen, but I do know one thing: as long as I have a breath in me, as long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m committed to anything, I’m going to fight to change the way these legislatures evolved.”

Sinema in Arizona and West Virginia Joe Manchin have repeatedly and openly expressed their opposition to such a change. National Democrats are trying to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which would set national electoral standards, and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act, which would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Manchin and Sinema met Mr. Biden on Thursday evening. After the session, a White House official said only that “the President welcomed Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema to the White House this evening for a frank and respectful exchange of views on the right to vote.”

Sinema said she continued to support the legislation and stressed the need to prohibit states from restricting access to voting, but said such change cannot come at the cost of further division.

President Biden attends special caucus meeting with Senate Democrats
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


“While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that aggravate the underlying disease of division that plagues our country,” Sinema told the Senate. “I need not reaffirm my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. And I need not reaffirm its role in protecting our country from wild swings in federal policy. .”

Eliminating 60-rule voting on a party line “will not guarantee that we will prevent demagogues from coming to power,” she said.

“Eliminating the 60-vote threshold will simply ensure that we lose an essential tool that we need to protect our democracy from threats in the years to come,” she added.

The Arizona senator expressed frustration both with Republicans blocking voting legislation and with Democrats trying to change Senate rules.

After the meeting, the president said he hoped they could pass the legislation, but he wasn’t sure.

“I hope we can achieve that,” he told reporters. “But I’m not sure.”

Manchin said the president gave a “wonderful speech,” while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Democrats “will do everything possible to pass these two bills.”

In a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, President said publicly for the first time that he supports removing the filibuster for ballot bills.

“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the past two months. I’m sick of being quiet!” exclaimed the president.

The House on Thursday, in a vote of 220 to 203, passed a consolidated ballot bill that would be the first step in allowing the Senate to debate changes to floor voting rights.

“Nothing less than our democracy is at stake,” Pelosi said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Republicans are warning the President and Senate Democrats against changing Senate rules.

“It’s more than a problem,” said Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. “It’s about fundamentally changing the fabric, the closure that the Senate provides by putting in place the filibuster to make sure we don’t have the dramatic swings from administration to administration, from majority to the minority, [from] Republican to Democrat, and that we kind of keep the ship in the right direction and work together at the same time.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not elaborate on whether the White House has identified more executive actions the president can and plans to take, noting that the president signed an executive order at the start of his term. presidency to promote the right to vote. PSAki acknowledged that it can be difficult to get things done with a small majority in the Senate.

“The president’s view is that we’re going to keep pushing for the hard stuff, and we’re going to keep pushing the rocks up the hill to get there,” she said.

CBS News’ Jack Turman, Fin Gomez and Adam Brewster contributed to this report.

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