Democrats assail Georgia law


Democrats have seized on new voting restrictions in Georgia to focus attention on the fight to overhaul federal election laws, setting up a slow-building standoff that carries echoes of the civil rights battles of a half-century ago.

In fiery speeches, pointed statements and tweets, party leaders on Friday decried the law signed the day before by the state’s Republican governor as specifically aimed at suppressing Black and Latino votes and a threat to democracy. President Joe Biden released an extended statement, calling the law an attack on “good conscience” that denies the right to vote for “countless” Americans.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” Biden said, referring to laws of the last century that enforced heavy-handed racial segregation in the South.

“It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act,” he said. He told reporters the Georgia law is an “atrocity" and the Justice Department is looking into it.

Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, lashed back, accusing Biden of attempting to “destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box" by supporting what the governor sees as federal intrusion into state responsibilities.

Behind the chorus of outrage, Democrats are also wrestling with the limits on their power in Washington, as long as Senate filibuster rules allow Republicans to block major legislation, including H.R. 1, a sweeping elections bill now pending in the Senate.

President Joe Biden slams a new Georgia voting law as "an atrocity." The president says "you don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting."

Biden and his party are seeking to build and sustain momentum in the realm of public opinion — hoping to nationalize what has so far been a Republican-led, state-by-state movement to curb access to the ballot — while they begin a slow, plodding legislative process. Allies meanwhile plan to fight the Georgia law, and others, in court.

“What’s happening in Georgia right now, underscores the importance and the urgency,” said Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in an interview Friday.

“This is about what is fundamental to our identity as an American people — one person, one vote.”

The emerging brawl over the politics and policy of voting access is swelling like nothing seen in recent years, harkening back to what many Americans may assume are well-settled rules ensuring equal access to the ballot.

But as Republican-controlled state legislatures from Georgia to Iowa to Arizona are taking dramatic action to limit early voting and force new voter ID requirements, the debate in Washington threatens to exacerbate the nation’s cavernous political divides in the early days of the Biden presidency, just as the Democratic president vows to unite the country.

It is expected to be a months-long slog in the narrowly divided Congress, specifically the Senate, where Democrats are, for now, unwilling to muscle their slim majority to change filibuster rules, despite the party’s urgent calls for action.

Instead, the Democrats are prepared to legislate the old-fashioned way, unspooling arguments in lengthy Senate debates, spilling out of the committee hearing rooms and onto the Senate floor, and forcing opponents to go on the record as standing in the way — much as South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond was positioned when he filibustered the Civil Rights Act of the last century.

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