Former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama backs Biden push on changing filibuster Inflation offers steep hike for Biden Zach Galifianakis: Celebrity culture ‘how we ended up with’ Trump MORE is throwing his support behind President BidenJoe BidenObama backs Biden push on changing filibuster House to vote on consolidated election bill Thursday, Pelosi says Overnight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia MORE’s push to change the filibuster for voting rights legislation.
Obama, in a Wednesday opinion piece for USA Today, said the filibuster is “the only thing standing in the way” of Congress passing federal voting rights reform.
“That’s why I fully support President Joe Biden’s call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote,” Obama wrote.
“And every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the president’s call as well,” he added.
Biden delivered a strong endorsement for changing Senate rules during a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, doubling down on his support for eliminating the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. Last month he said he supported creating an exception to the legislative hurdle.
Obama’s op-ed, which USA Today said is his first since departing the White House, comes as Democrats are launching a concerted effort to pass federal voting rights reform, which stalled last year due to GOP opposition.
The former president previously said Congress must pass such a voting rights bill prior to the 2022 midterm elections or American democracy could be at risk.
Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBusiness executives urge Senate to bypass filibuster to pass voting rights Former colleagues honor Reid in ceremony at Capitol Biden to meet with Senate Democrats in voting rights push MORE (D-N.Y.) announced earlier this month that he will force a vote on changing Senate rules by Jan. 17 if Republicans again block voting rights legislation.
In a memo to his caucus on Wednesday, Schumer outlined how he will start debate on a bill that combines the Freedom to Vote Act, which calls for an overhaul to federal elections, with legislation named after the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisObama backs Biden push on changing filibuster Durbin says Biden may have gone ‘a little too far’ in Georgia speech Schumer lays out strategy for voting rights debate MORE (D-Ga.), which seeks to expand the Voting Rights Act. He plans to use a Senate procedure to bypass a 60-vote requirement to bring the bill up for debate.
Republicans, however, will likely block the legislation when it comes up for a vote, as it still requires 60 votes for passage. The GOP caucus blocked the two separate bills last year.
Schumer will then likely begin the process of amending the filibuster, which will be a difficult task because of opposition within his party — namely from Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinObama backs Biden push on changing filibuster House to vote on consolidated election bill Thursday, Pelosi says Black Democrats hammer Manchin for backing filibuster on voting rights MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaObama backs Biden push on changing filibuster House to vote on consolidated election bill Thursday, Pelosi says Durbin says Biden may have gone ‘a little too far’ in Georgia speech MORE (D-Ariz.), both of whom have previously said they are against amending Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation.
Schumer did not lay out how he plans to change the Senate filibuster in his memo or how he will get the votes to do so.
Obama, in his Wednesday op-ed, said the filibuster “has no basis in the Constitution,” noting the connection the legislative hurdle has to the Jim Crow era. He said the procedure cannot be used to “block efforts to protect” democracy in the U.S.
“Historically, the parliamentary tactic was used sparingly — most notably by Southern senators to block civil rights legislation and prop up Jim Crow,” Obama wrote.
“In recent years, the filibuster became a routine way for the Senate minority to to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters. But we can’t allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy,” he added.
The opinion piece was not the first time the former president has remarked on the filibuster. In July 2020, he called the legislative procedure a “Jim Crow relic” and in 2018, he said the hurdle had made it “almost impossible” to govern.
Obama also reflected on the current state of voting rights in the U.S., pointing to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, restrictive voting bills passed in Republican-led states and new congressional maps.
“Now is the time for all of us to follow John Lewis’ example,” Obama wrote. “Now is the time for the U.S. Senate to do the right thing. America’s long-standing grand experiment in democracy is being sorely tested. Future generations are counting on us to meet that test.”