The speech in the city where the founding document of the US democratic system was drawn up and signed in 1787 is Biden’s highest profile foray yet into a controversy that both Republicans and Democrats describe in dire terms.
According to the White House and congressional Democrats, Republicans are using state legislatures to restrict voting rights across the country under the guise of increasing election security.
Republicans – led by former president Donald Trump and his unprecedented campaign, based on lies, to overturn his election loss to Biden – insist tougher voting rules are needed to crack down on voter fraud.
This means things like cutting back on mail-in voting, shortening hours at polls and imposing heavy fines against poll workers who make mistakes. While Republicans say such measures would clean up US elections, Democrats point to an already extremely low incidence of fraud and say the measures target Black and other non-white voters, who tend to vote Democrat.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that Biden would “lay out the moral case for why denying the right to vote is a form of suppression and a form of silencing.”
Biden sees this as “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War,” she said.
It’s not clear, however, what difference Biden can make.
Democrats in Congress have tried and failed to enact federal laws that would protect access to polls, but with only a razor-thin majority they failed.
The impasse has put a spotlight on the Senate rule known as the filibuster where by custom — though not law — it takes 60 out of the 100 senators to pass most legislation.
This ensures that Republicans can easily block any bill, since the chamber is split 50-50 — but Biden has been reluctant to press for change.
In the most dramatic episode of the ongoing struggle over voter access, Democratic lawmakers in Texas fled the state on Monday to prevent a quorum in the legislature, where the Republican majority was about to vote in new restrictions.
The Democrats’ exodus was the second time they’d used the unusual tactic to derail the bill. The Texans headed for Washington where they were lobbying congressional lawmakers to push ahead on federal voting protection laws.