Foreign Policy

Biden condemns GOP-backed electoral restrictions in Georgia as “blatant attack on the constitution”

In this handout, Republican Governor Brian Kemp signs Law SB 202, a restrictive electoral law that activists say aims to reduce the influence of black voters who were instrumental in the state elections that helped Democrats win the White House win and limit control of the U.S. Senate The photo was posted to Kemp’s Twitter feed on March 25, 2021.

Twitter feed from Governor Brian Kemp | Handout via Reuters

President Joe Biden on Friday condemned a comprehensive GOP-backed electoral reform bill that was signed Thursday evening in Georgia, including new identification requirements for absentee ballots, limiting ballot boxes, and banning the supply of food or water to voters in line with provides for these provisions.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st century,” Biden said in a statement, comparing the legislation to the infamous electoral restrictions that kept people of color from voting in front of the civil rights movement in the south. “It has to end. We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the 96-page bill Thursday night, just hours after Republican lawmakers passed the revision of the electoral rules known as SB 202.

Democratic Rep. Park Cannon was arrested by Georgia state police Thursday after knocking on Kemp’s office door when he signed the SB 202.

The new electoral rules in Georgia come from Senate Democrats aiming to pass a federal election reform law, the For the People Act, amid a wave of Republican electoral restrictions being proposed in state legislatures across the country.

“This bill, like so many others persecuted by Republicans in state houses across the country, is an blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,” Biden said. He said the provisions of SB 202 “effectively deny the right to vote for countless voters.”

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Friday that SB 202 will expand options because the bill increases the number of early voting days.

The debate over electoral integrity came to a head this year when conspiracy theories of widespread electoral fraud led violent pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 to dismiss the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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In his statement, Biden called on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Stakeholders like the New Georgia Project and the Black Voters Matter Fund have urged Biden to urge Congress to pass the two state voting laws by supporting measures like the elimination of the filibuster in the Senate.

Biden signaled in his first press conference Thursday that he could support the abolition of the Senate filibuster instead of reforming it if his priorities are set in Congress.

“If we have to, if there is total lockdown and chaos as a result of the filibuster, we have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he told reporters.

Biden has said he supports the return to what is known as a talking filibuster, where lawmakers must keep the Senate active in order to block the legislation. As of now, the Senate will need 60 votes to push a bill – which means Republicans can block the vast majority of bills in a chamber that is 50-50 split by party.

– CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

Correction: Biden’s first press conference took place on Thursday. In an earlier version of this story, the day was incorrectly stated.

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