Former President Barack Obama is calling on the Senate to “do the right thing” and pass voting rights legislation, backing President Joe Biden’s push to change Senate filibuster rules to do so.
In his first opinion piece since leaving the White House, the former president, 60, expressed the urgency in sitting president Joe Biden bypassing the filibuster and passing key legislation in the Senate to defend voting rights.
Obama shared a link to the op-ed — published on USA Today — on Instagram Wednesday and wrote, “Now is the time for the U.S. Senate to do the right thing and call a vote on crucial voting rights legislation. Future generations are counting on us to protect our democracy.”
“That’s why I fully support @POTUS’s call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote,” he added. “And every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the President’s call as well.”
In the editorial, Obama went on to underscore the importance of the right to vote, referencing the armed insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
“While the American people turned out to vote at the highest rate in a century in the last presidential election, members of one of our two major political parties — spurred on by the then-sitting president — denied the results of that election and spun conspiracy theories that drove a violent mob to attack our Capitol,” he wrote.
He also mentioned the ongoing efforts to reduce and restrict voting freedoms, writing that “state legislators in 49 states have introduced more than 400 bills designed to suppress votes. Some of these bills we’ve seen before: legislation that would discourage voters, including racial minorities, low-income voters and young people from casting a ballot.”
He continued, “Others aim to treat certain polling locations differently, creating one set of rules for voters living in cities and another set for people living in more conservative, rural areas.”
The 44th U.S. president also touched on the tactics being used to weaken voting rights, including “more aggressive attempts to gerrymander congressional districts” and Republican attempts “to assert power over” the ability to certify election results.
“These partisan attempts at voter nullification are unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times, and they represent a profound threat to the basic democratic principle that all votes should be counted fairly and objectively,” Obama wrote.
He also mentioned how attempts to protect voting rights, in the form of bills proposed by Democratic lawmakers, have been largely rejected or ignored by Republican counterparts: “Almost every Senate Republican who expressed concern about threats to our democracy in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection has since been cowed into silence or reversed their positions.”
Finally, Obama wrote that the filibuster “has no basis in the Constitution,” going on to explain how it has become “a routine way for the Senate minority to block important progress on issues supported by the majority of voters.”
“But we can’t allow it to be used to block efforts to protect our democracy,” he added. “That’s why I fully support President Joe Biden’s call to modify Senate rules as necessary to make sure pending voting rights legislation gets called for a vote.”
Earlier this week, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered public remarks on the importance of passing federal voting legislation to create national standards for election management, or reinstating a federal review of changes to state and local election laws.
Such legislation has so far been stymied in Congress because of objections by Republicans, who say the reforms amount to federal intrusion.
Speaking to reporters from Air Force One, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Atlanta was a significant backdrop for Biden and Harris’ speech, as it is one of 19 states to pass “voter suppression laws attacking the right to vote” in 2020.
Psaki added that Biden would use his remarks on Tuesday to “forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American right: The right to vote and have your voice counted in a free, fair and secure election that is not tainted by partisan manipulation.”
It’s time for something to be done.