Biden Says Focus on Economic Deal Distracts From Voting Rights
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said his focus on securing congressional Democratic support for his economic agenda has distracted him from pursuing police reform and voting-rights legislation.
Biden said in a CNN town hall in Baltimore on Thursday that his economic bills -- a $550 billion infrastructure deal and a larger package of social spending and tax increases -- “are going to change the circumstances for working class folks, African Americans as well.”
But he said his “greatest regret” is that work on those measures has “prevented me from getting deeply up to my ears -- which I’m going to do once this is done -- in dealing with police brutality, dealing with the whole notion of what are we going to do about voting rights.”
Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed new restrictions on voting in response to former President Donald Trump’s continual false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against him.
“It’s the greatest assault on voting rights in the history of the United States, for real, since the Civil War,” Biden said.
But efforts by congressional Democrats to expand voting rights have been repeatedly filibustered by Senate Republicans. Under Senate rules, 60 senators must vote to advance most legislation.
Biden suggested that may have to change.
“I also think we’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” he said. He said certain things are “sacred rights,” like not defaulting on the debt. “Voting rights are equally as consequential,” he said.
Earlier Thursday, in a speech to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, Biden said that White supremacy motivated Trump supporters who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“The violent, deadly insurrection on the Capitol nine months ago, it was about White supremacy, in my opinion,” Biden said of the Jan. 6 riot.
He placed the incident in the context of other racist episodes in U.S. history, including a White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 in which one counter-protester was killed.
Biden said he doesn’t support a ballot initiative in Minneapolis to replace its police force with a “public safety” department.
“I think you need police officers. I think we need police officers to protect us,” he said. But he said he wants more money dedicated to “community policing” and psychiatric care.
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