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Outrage over stalled US voting rights bill continues as activists say ‘we need action’ – live

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2021-10-21

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6.59pm BST

Joe Manchin pumps brakes on imminent spending package framework deal

Another dip on the Capitol Hill roller coaster as latest reports have conservative Senator Joe Manchin telling reporters he thinks there won’t be an outline deal agreed on the heart of the Build Back Better legislation by tomorrow - despite growing expectations that that had been in reach.

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Joe Manchin at the US Capitol on Tuesday this week. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

“This is not going to happen anytime soon,” Manchin told reporters following him around in Washington, DC, noting that “good progress” was being made, as intense negotiations continue, but there is still a lot of detail to be sorted out, Reuters has just reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded optimistic earlier that there could be a framework deal announced as early as tomorrow. But the Democratic human road block from West Virginia appears once again to be standing in his party’s way.

Congressional Democrats are trying to thrash out the size and nature of the flagship spending package, aiming for it to be passed in the Senate on a simple majority vote via the reconciliation process.

Originally priced at $3.5tn, the moderate nub of Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema are instrumental in moves to beat down the top line of wide-ranging investments to expand social programs and attack climate change to less than $2tn at this rate - possibly minus a major element to reduce emissions targets to reduce global heating.

Updated at 7.12pm BST

6.24pm BST

'We have to keep up the fight and get it done,' Biden says of voting rights legislation

Joe Biden condemned Republican efforts to enact voting restrictions, describing such attempts at voter suppression as “un-American”.

The president was speaking one day after Senate Republicans blocked Democrats ’ Freedom to Vote Act from advancing, dealing another blow to Biden’s hopes of enacting national voting rights legislation.

“We have to keep up the fight and get it done,” Biden said in his speech at the Dr Martin Luther King memorial. “I know the stakes. You know the stakes. This is far from over.”

Biden added that his administration was also working to confront “the deep stain on the soul of the nation: hate and white supremacy”.

The president drew a historical line from America’s shameful enslavement of African people to Ku Klux Klan terrorism to the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville and the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6.

“The through line is that hate never goes away,” Biden said. “It only hides.”

6.11pm BST

Joe Biden reflected on Congress’ failure to pass police reform legislation as he spoke at the Dr Martin Luther King memorial in Washington.

The president had hoped to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, but that deadline came and went in May.

“I know the frustration we all feel that ... meaningful police reform in George’s name has still not passed Congress,” Biden said.

But the president committed to continuing to work to pass the bill, saying, “The fight’s not anywhere near over.”

5.51pm BST

Speaking at the Dr Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, Kamala Harris emphasized the need to enact national voting rights legislation, as Republican-led legislatures across the country approve voting restrictions.

The vice-president, who has been named as the Biden administration ’s point person on voting rights, was speaking one day after Senate Republicans blocked Democrats ’ Freedom to Vote Act from advancing.

“We should not have to keep fighting to secure our fundamental rights,” Harris said. “But fight we must. And fight we will.”

5.48pm BST

House speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the Dr Martin Luther King memorial in Washington.

The Democratic speaker recounted how she was in the nation’s capital for the March on Washington in 1963 but could not stay for King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech because “I had to leave to go get married.”

Pelosi said it was “such an occasion to see so many people converging on Washington, DC,” including her beloved late colleague John Lewis, the civil rights icon who died last year.

Pelosi quoted King’s words, saying, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of America’s children.”

Updated at 5.48pm BST

5.22pm BST

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have arrived at the memorial for Dr Martin Luther King at the Tidal Basin in Washington.

The president and the vice-president will soon deliver remarks to mark the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the memorial. Stay tuned.

5.11pm BST

Senator Joe Manchin has addressed a report that he considered leaving the Democratic party if his demands for the reconciliation package were not met.

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill today, the West Virginia denied threatening to leave the party, per CBS News .

However, he acknowledged that he had discussed switching his party affiliation to independent if his stances ever became “an embarrassment” for Joe Biden and fellow Democratic lawmakers.

“That’s the only thing was ever discussed. No one accepted that, and I just said, ‘I’ll make that offer, if you need it,’” Manchin said.

If Manchin did switch his party affiliation to independent but continued to caucus with Senate Democrats, the party would maintain control of the upper chamber.

4.43pm BST

Pelosi insists reconciliation bill will be 'fully paid for,' despite Sinema's demands

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Joanna Walters.

During her press conference, Nancy Pelosi also addressed reports that Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema, a crucial vote to get the reconciliation package passed, has voiced criticism of proposals to raise taxes on high-income Americans and corporations.

Sinema’s complaints have raised concerns that the reconciliation package will not be fully paid for, which has been a pivotal selling point for moderate Democrats.

“The bill will be fully paid for, and the matter is in the hands of our chairs of the finance committee and the ways and means committee,” Pelosi said.

Asked if Sinema has conveyed that position to her, the speaker said, “Her position is well known.”

Updated at 5.21pm BST

4.22pm BST

Bannon 'had specific knowledge' about Capitol attack before it happened – Pelosi

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is covering several major topics that are competing to be top of agenda on Capitol Hill for the Biden administration.

Pelosi is looking forward to the House voting this afternoon to advance to the next stage of holding former Trump aide Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress, over his defiance of the subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the run-up to and day of the insurrection at the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Donald Trump. She characterized the storming of Congress on 6 January as an act of “domestic terrorism” and an attempt to “interfere with the peaceful, constitutional transfer of power” to the election winner Joe Biden. “Steve Bannon had specific knowledge about the events before they occurred” and has a lot of evidence “relevant to the attack”, she said, which the committee needed to get to the bottom of in order to “find out the truth” about the insurrection.

Meanwhile, Pelosi said Democrats on the Hill are “making great progress” towards agreeing the framework of the (rapidly shrinking but still huge) social spending bill at the heart of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislative agenda relating to infrastructure, social benefits and the climate crisis.

On climate action, Pelosi said “the point is to reach the goals, the emissions goals of a reduction by 50% by 2030, we have a responsibility not just to meet but to beat the Paris [climate accord of 2015] goals [keeping global heating to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels] and help poor countries with technology and assistance to help them meet their goals ... they are paying a big price.”

Frantic negotiations are taking place over how to meet climate goals since West Virginia senator Joe Manchin said he would not support the climate action policy currently at the heart of the $3.5tn spending bill being chewed over by the House. Pelosi hopes for agreement on the bill framework by House Democrats by tomorrow.

Updated at 5.40pm BST

3.57pm BST

The House judiciary committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, signaled in the way he just addressed the witness, attorney general Merrick Garland , that Democrats on the committee are very keen to talk about voting rights, with the New York congressman talking of voting access being “under steady assault” in the US right now.

Nadler brought up the disastrous (for those keen on upholding maximum access to voting rights in America) 2013 supreme court decision, which the Guardian has called:

One of the most consequential rulings in a generation in a case called Shelby county v Holder . In a 5-4 vote, the court struck down a formula at the heart of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law that required certain states and localities with a history of discrimination against minority voters to get changes cleared by the federal government before they went into effect.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this decision. The power of the Voting Rights Act was in the design that the supreme court gutted – discriminatory voting policies could be blocked before they harmed voters. The law placed the burden of proof on government officials to prove why the changes they were seeking were not discriminatory. Now, voters who are discriminated against now bear the burden of proving they are disenfranchised.

Immediately after the decision, Republican lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina – two states previously covered by the law – moved to enact new voter ID laws and other restrictions. A federal court would later strike down the North Carolina law, writing it was designed to target African Americans “ with almost surgical precision ”.

“The scope of what, frankly, the right could do, in a pre-Shelby world was very limited. Now it’s not so limited,” said Bryan Sells, a voting rights attorney in Georgia. “If I’m a Republican political consultant or strategist, the options that are available to me are now wider than they used to be ... It made it more advantageous to tinker.”

But it’s becoming clear that Republicans on the panel don’t want to talk about this and, based on what Jim Jordan and Steve Chabot , both Ohio congressmen, have said so far, they want to talk about raging educational policy wars over who should have greater say about what children are taught in schools – the school/education authority or the parents.

It’s going to be a lively hearing. Nancy Pelosi is holding her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill now, so we’ll tune into that, too, and see what the House speaker has to say.

Updated at 5.36pm BST

3.35pm BST

The appearance of attorney general Merrick Garland in front of the House judiciary committee is underway.

There was initial chaos with a spat between chair Jerry Nadler (Democrat of New York) and Republican Jim Jordan, but Garland is speaking now to give his opening remarks.

We will bring you any prominent points that emerge, but if you want to follow the entire hearing live, you can watch it here .

3.28pm BST

Outrage over the lack of progress on voting rights legislation to protect voting access, specifically for Black voters, continues – and Joe Biden is in the spotlight.

There is fury from grassroots group Black Voters Matter, founded by LaTosha Brown, which was instrumental in getting out the Black vote in Georgia in the November 2020 presidential election and, in particular, in the Senate runoff races that followed.

“Again, these voter suppression bills are not about voter fraud, they’re about historic Black voter turnout. We need action from the Senate. We need more than just words from @POTUS, voting rights need to be a priority. We need to pass federal legislation to protect the vote,” Black Voters Matter posted on Twitter.

Stacey Abrams , who narrowly lost the contest to become governor of Georgia and has campaigned hard to get out the vote in her state and uphold voting rights, was also key in the 2020 election and the Senate runoff races .

She tweeted outrage at Republicans blocking yesterday what she called “widely popular legislation”.

Meanwhile, the advocacy group Common Cause, which acts as an unofficial watchdog on government action and supports wider voting rights, had a number of pointed comments.

And, a little earlier, this:

Updated at 5.32pm BST

3.00pm BST

NAACP's Ifill on dangers of voting rights legislation stalling

There is furious reaction to stalled attempts to protect voting rights in the US with new laws at the federal level, in the face of determined and brazen efforts by some Republican-led states to suppress the scope to vote, in particular affecting Black voters in non-urban and/or low income communities.

US Senate Republicans once again blocked voting rights legislation yesterday.

My colleague Sam Levine writes:

The bill, the Freedom to Vote Act , would impose significant new guardrails on the American democratic process and amount to the most significant overhaul of US elections in a generation. It would require every state to automatically register voters at motor vehicle agencies, offer 15 consecutive days of early voting and allow anyone to request a mail-in ballot. It would also set new standards to ensure voters are not wrongfully removed from the voter rolls, protect election officials against partisan interference, and set out clear alternatives people who lack ID to vote can use at the polls.

Sherrilyn Ifill , law professor and president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund , responded on MSNBC. She said she was part of a non-partisan organization, but pointed out there was no getting away from the fact that “not a single Republican” in the Senate was prepared even to support debating the bill, let alone voting on it. And with filibuster rules requiring 60 Senate votes, Democrats in the 50-50 Senate were not able to advance the bill.

“[They were] unwilling to even have the conversation about expanding voter access, and we have seen in states like Florida and Georgia and Texas what is happening in terms of voter suppression laws that have been passed ... restrictive laws targeted at Black and brown voters over the objections of almost every Democrat in those legislatures.

That doesn’t change what it is...the reality of what we are dealing with is no different than the reality of what Black voters were dealing with in 1964 and we don’t look back at the great voting rights effort and the Selma march and say the Democrats were doing this or the Republicans were doing that, we look back and recognize that voter suppression was being perpetuated and advanced to keep fellow citizens from being able to vote and participate in the democratic process today.”

Ifill went on to say that some of the media finds it too convenient to talk about voting rights struggles now in partisan terms:

“And not to confront the racial discrimination that lies at the heart of it. But the voting Right Act talks about Black voters having the right to elect their candidate of choice, it doesn’t say who that candidate is or what party they belong to ... the maps that are being drawn ... voter suppression laws that are being passed are targeted very specifically at Black and brown voters and that’s the conversation we need to be having ... that is the sign that white supremacy still remains a critical flaw in our democracy ... it has come to take down our entire democracy.”

Updated at 5.31pm BST

2.33pm BST

Former Republican secretary of state Condoleezza Rice shocked many when she said on ABC that it was “time to move on” from investigating the 6 January Capitol attack when extremist supporters of Donald Trump stormed Congress in an effort, ostensibly, to stop lawmakers from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory .

Rice told The View yesterday that she wept as she watched rioters breaking into the Capitol and stalking the halls, attacking police officers, invading the chambers and looking for lawmakers and staff to hurt.

“I thought: ‘I study countries that do this. I didn’t think it would happen in my own country,’” she said and the Washington Post reported .

She said the attack “was wrong” but then said of the ongoing House investigation into the background to the insurrection, and what the Trump White House, aides and Republican lawmakers knew and did in the run-up and on the day, that it was time to move on.

The Post points out:

[Rice’s] comments were a response in agreement to remarks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave on Tuesday. McConnell told reporters it was time for lawmakers “to be talking about the future and not the past,” referring to the discussion about false claims of election fraud pushed by Trump and his allies, which ultimately led supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. McConnell said the issue should no longer be of concern...

Nevertheless, the House’s Jan. 6 committee is moving ahead on the investigation into the insurrection. Over the past few weeks, lawmakers subpoenaed organizers of the pro-Trump rallies that preceded the riot and several former Trump advisers . Among them was Stephen K. Bannon, who last week refused to comply with the subpoena. The committee unanimously voted Tuesday to hold the former adviser in contempt.

Updated at 5.27pm BST

2.01pm BST

House to vote on holding Steve Bannon in contempt over Capitol attack evidence

Good morning, US politics live blog readers, on a big day in a crucial week in Washington for Joe Biden’s administration there is a lot going on, so tune in as we bring you all the developments in short order.

Here’s are some of the main items on the docket today:

  • The House is due to vote this afternoon on whether to recommend the prosecution of Steve Bannon , former top aide to Donald Trump , for criminal contempt of Congress for defying the subpoena issued by the bipartisan select committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January by extremist Trump supporters. If, as expected, the House votes to do so, the next stage involves federal prosecutors, as part of the Department of Justice (DoJ), deciding whether to prosecute. The House vote follows the unanimous select committee vote two days ago.
  • US attorney general Merrick Garland will testify in front of the House judiciary committee from 10am ET and can expect questions from members of Congress on taking actions over defiance of Jan 6 committee subpoenas (also issued to other former top aides of Trump). Garland will also be asked about DoJ efforts - unsuccessful so far - to stop the Texas abortion ban .
  • Frantic negotiations between Joe Biden, top staff and members of Congress to reach a deal on an outline agreement to pass the flagship Build Back Better legislation package , amid a mix of acrimony and determined optimism (a heady Capitol Hill cocktail). Biden is racing to find a way to preserve his climate action agenda ahead of going to Scotland next week to represent the US at the Cop26 United Nations climate crisis summit.
  • The fall-out continues from the failure of Democrats to advance voting rights legislation, after Senate Republicans again blocked a sweeping voting rights bill yesterday day, a move that will significantly increase pressure on the Biden administration to do away with the filibuster .
  • Vice-President Kamala Harris heads to Virginia to campaign for Democrat Terry McAuliffe who is neck-and-neck with his Republican rival for the governorship of that state in next month’s gubernatorial election.
  • Donald Trump is launching a social media platform. Yep.

Updated at 2.24pm BST

Comments / 6

Ronald Schergen
10-23

What you need is the truth instead of democrats lies everyone should have to show an ID to vote

Reply(1)
8

Comments / 0