Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin on Wednesday said President Joe Biden may have gone “a little too far in his rhetoric” when he compared lawmakers who do not support changing Senate filibuster rules to pass stalled voting and elections legislation to segregationists.
“Joe Biden came to the United States Senate on a civil rights platform, that is why he ran in the first place, and the fact he shows emotion when it comes to voting rights of Americans, I’m glad he did,” the Illinois Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”
Pressed by Tapper on whether the President’s implicit comparison of lawmakers like Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – who have publicly said they are against changing the Senate rules – to segregationists Bull Connor and George Wallace was “stark,” Durbin responded: “It is stark, and I will concede that point, but don’t overlook the reality that in 20 different states, governed and led by Republicans in legislature and the governorship in each and every one of them, taking step by weary step to ensure fewer Americans vote.”
“Who in the world sets out as a political agenda reducing the vote in America?” he continued. “Exactly the opposite should be our goal by both political parties, and yes, that was the goal of the segregationists, was to reduce the opportunity for African Americans to vote, well documented, over spans of decade after decade, so yes, there are parallels there. Perhaps the President went a little too far in his rhetoric, some of us do, but the fundamental principles and values at stake are very similar.”
Biden on Tuesday called on the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, but Democrats don’t have the votes to pass either bill without changing the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate on legislation. As of now, they also don’t have the votes to change it.
In his speech, the President equated supporters of Senate rule changes to civil rights icons and opponents to the segregationists and a leader of the Confederacy.
“At consequential moments in history, they present a choice,” said Biden in his speech. “Do you want to be 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?”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, blasted Biden’s speech and its comparisons as “incoherent” and “beneath his office.”