Former President Barack Obama is calling on the Senate to “do the right thing” and pass voting rights legislation, backing President Joe Biden’s push to change Senate filibuster rules to do so.
“Protecting our democracy wasn’t always a partisan issue,” the former Democratic President wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today on Wednesday.
“The Voting Rights Act was the result of Democratic and Republican efforts, and both President Reagan and President George W. Bush signed its renewal when they were in office. But even if Senate Republicans now refuse to stand up for our democracy, Democrats should be able to get the job done with a simple majority vote.”
Obama’s piece comes on the heels of Biden’s Tuesday call for the Senate to act on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Democrats don’t have the votes to pass either bill without changing the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate on legislation.
“I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking actions on voting rights,” Biden said in a scathing speech that has drawn criticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
As of now, Democrats do not have the votes in their party to change the filibuster rules.
The former President said he “fully support(s) President Joe Biden’s call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote.”
“The filibuster has no basis in the Constitution,” Obama wrote, adding that “we can’t allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy.”
“No single piece of legislation can guarantee that we’ll make progress on every challenge we face as a nation. But legislation that ensures the right to vote and makes sure every vote is properly counted will give us a better chance of meeting those challenges,” the former President said.
Referencing the towering figure of the American civil rights movement and longtime congressman for whom one of the bills is named, Obama urged that “now is the time for all of us to follow John Lewis’ example.”
“Now is the time for the U.S. Senate to do the right thing,” he wrote. “America’s long-standing grand experiment in democracy is being sorely tested. Future generations are counting on us to meet that test.”