To what extent — profoundly — it is not presidential,” the Kentucky Republican said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. “I have known, admired and respected Joe Biden personally for many years. I did not recognize the man on the podium yesterday.”
“In later moments in history, they present a choice,” Biden said in his speech. “Do you want to be next to Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be next to John Lewis or Paul Connor? Do you want to be next to Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
Despite Biden’s pressure, Senate Democrats are unlikely to pass the voting legislation, due to influential centrists like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kirsten Sinema, who are unlikely to support necessary rule changes.
McConnell seemed to realize that Democrats didn’t have enough votes to repeal the block, which requires 60 votes to move forward on most legislation, saying Biden had compared “a majority of bipartisan senators to true traitors.”
“You cannot devise a better declaration of legislative procrastination than we have just seen, a president who would abandon rational persuasion for the sake of pure and pure demagogy,” McConnell said. “A president’s outcry that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racists unless he gets what he wants is proof of exactly why the framers of the resolution built the Senate to check his power.”
In response to McConnell’s sharp criticism, Biden told reporters he liked the Senate Republican leader and called McConnell a “friend.”
When asked by CNN’s Jake Taber about Biden’s blatant attack on his opponents, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said Republican-led states are “taking a grueling step-by-step to make sure that … fewer Americans will vote.” Durbin said there are “similarities” between what they do today and what apartheid advocates did in the past to limit the voting rights of black voters.
“The president may have gone a little too far in his rhetoric – and some of us do – but the core principles and values at stake are very, very similar,” added Durbin, the House’s second Democrat.
The first bill would make sweeping changes, including designating Election Day as a public holiday, mandating voter registration on the same day, ensuring that all voters can order mail-in ballots and restoring federal voting rights to ex-felons once they are released from prison. The second measure would restore the federal government’s authority to oversee state voting laws in order to prevent discrimination against minority voters. The third bill would further clarify the approval process for a presidential election after then-President Donald Trump and his advisers urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to disqualify Biden’s electoral slate on Jan. 6, 2021.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Ammar Musa called McConnell’s Wednesday speech a hypocritical “tantrum”, noting that the senator had changed Senate rules to eliminate stalling in front of Trump Supreme Court nominees. McConnell did so after Democrats changed the rules for lower-level judicial nominees under President Barack Obama, who blamed McConnell for blocking or delaying many of his nominees.
“While McConnell leads Republicans in their relentless war against the protection of the right to vote and the hypocritical defense of Senate rules, President Biden and Democrats continue to fight to protect the basic rights of Americans,” Moses said. “Mitch McConnell can save crocodile tears – the American people see right through them.”
McConnell argued that Georgia had earlier voting days than either Delaware or New York.
“Georgia has no excuse for absentee voting, which Delaware and New York do not,” McConnell said. “If Georgia or Texas file emergencies for Jim Crow, that happens with a large number of states that are run by Democrats.”
McConnell also claimed on Wednesday that Democrats are undermining the 2022 election as polls show Biden’s approval rating underwater.
“People who spent November 2020 through January 21 sermons about the strength and sanctity of our democracy are now pledging to delegitimize the next election if they lose it,” McConnell said.
This story was updated with additional developments on Wednesday.
Frederica Scotten from CNN Contribute to this report.