Senate Democrat Says Biden Went 'Too Far' in Georgia Speech

Biden compared Republicans to Southern segregationist Democrats

January 13, 2022

Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) on Wednesday said President Joe Biden went "a little too far" during his speech in Georgia, in which he likened Republicans who oppose "voting rights" legislation to Southern segregationist Democrats.

"Perhaps the president went a little too far in his rhetoric," Durbin told CNN's Jake Tapper, calling comparisons the president made "stark." During his speech, Biden called for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and to abolish the Senate filibuster. He said those who oppose Democrats' voting legislation, including congressional Republicans, were "on the side of" segregationist politicians like George Wallace and Bull Connor.

"Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?" Biden said.

Biden's speech comes as the White House has upped its pressure on Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), both of whom oppose changes to the filibuster. Without changes to the filibuster, the evenly divided upper chamber needs at least 10 Republican senators to support the two voting bills. None have shown support.

Durbin said there were "parallels" between Republicans' opposition and the segregationists, arguing current Republican legislation is trying to make it harder for Americans to vote.

The Freedom to Vote Act would make Election Day a federal holiday, mandate 15 days of early voting, expand access to vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration, and allow felons who have served their sentences to vote. It would also allow voters without an ID to sign a statement attesting to their identity, overruling a majority of state laws that require a voter to present a valid ID.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would require federal authorities like the Justice Department and U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to approve states' voting legislation before passing it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) called Biden's speech a "rant," "incoherent," and "profoundly unpresidential," adding that it compared "a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors."

Published under: Biden