Former President Barack Obama discussed the upcoming voting rights legislation hitting the Senate on Monday, saying that the bill needs to get through the legislative body.
During a call with supporters and former Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama stressed the importance of passing the massive election overhaul bill expected to make its way to the Senate this week.
“We can’t wait until the next election because if we have the same kinds of shenanigans that brought about Jan. 6, if we have that for a couple more election cycles, we’re going to have real problems in terms of our democracy long-term,” Obama said.
“Since I left office I’ve tried to make a policy not to weigh in on the day-to-day scrum in Washington,” Obama said.
“But what’s happening this week is more than just a partisan bill coming up or not coming up to a vote,” he added.
Obama criticized the filibuster, which he supported in the past when his party was not in control of the Senate.
According to The Heritage Foundation, around 2005 when Republicans discussed getting rid of the filibuster, Obama said that every senator “knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster … the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse.” One party, “be it Republican or Democrat,” should not be able to “change the rules in the middle of the game so they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet,” he said, per Heritage.
Obama reportedly said Monday that the filibuster is not in the Constitution, and it “allows a determined minority of senators to block legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans.”
Obama said that updates to the bill were made by “the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, or maybe in Congress — Joe Manchin of West Virginia — to come up with common sense reforms that a majority of Americans agree with, that Democrats and Republicans can agree with.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has reportedly been working on a compromise deal that would alter the current bill.
As The Daily Wire reported last week, a draft of a memo from Manchin’s office was released by The Washington Post on Thursday and detailed certain items that Manchin would support, including making Election Day a public holiday. He would also support actions such as “Mandat[ing] at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections (include 2 weekends),” and “Requir[ing] voter ID with allowable alternatives (utility bill, etc.) to prove identity to vote.” His list of supported updates included: “Allow for maintenance of voter rolls by utilizing information derived from state and federal documents,” something that Democrats have pushed back against in the past, and “Ban partisan gerrymandering and use computer models.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) told the media that members of his party would not support Manchin’s version last week. He said, “I would make this observation about the revised version. It still turns the federal election commission from a judge into a prosecutor … and, in what is an extraordinarily dubious constitutionality, would remove redistricting from state legislatures and hand it over to computers. Equally unacceptable. Totally inappropriate.”
McConnell noted, “All Republicans, I think, will oppose that, as well, if that were to be what surfaced on the floor,” adding that isn’t what they anticipate will happen.
According to NBC News, Obama further discussed the January 6 riot at the Capitol during the call.
“Think about this: In the aftermath of an insurrection, with our democracy on the line and many of the same Republican senators going along with the notion that somehow there were irregularities and problems with legitimacy in our most recent election, they’re suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out a solution on the floor of the Senate,” Obama said.
“That’s not acceptable,” he said.