Former President Barack Obama used his first op-ed since leaving the White House to back President Joe Biden’s call to change Senate filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation.
Obama, in his opinion piece for USA Today, wrote about the work that must go into protecting democracy — something he says the late Rep. John Lewis understood all too well. But it isn’t the first time the former president has made his stance on the Senate rule clear. When delivering Lewis’ eulogy in 2020, Obama suggested eliminating the filibuster — what he called a Jim Crow relic — in order to pass sweeping voting reforms in the Georgia congressman’s honor.
Obama echoed that message in Wednesday’s piece, writing that the filibuster “has no basis in the Constitution.” He noted that historically, the tool was used mainly by Southern senators to obstruct the passage of civil rights legislation and to keep Jim Crow laws on the books.
“In recent years, the filibuster became 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,” Obama said. “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. And every American who cares about the survival of our most cherished institutions should support the president’s call as well.”
Obama’s piece comes a day after Biden and Vice President Harris delivered back-to-back speeches in Atlanta, calling for Congress to pass voting and elections reform bills. Biden called the Senate “a shell of its former self” and said he supported changing the Senate rules to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
The former president laid out what he said is the “unraveling of basic democratic principles.” From pro-Trump rioters storming the Capitol and the continued spread of falsehoods about the 2020 election, to partisan gerrymandering and Republican-led bills at the state level designed to “suppress the vote” and alter the electoral process, Obama wrote, “America’s long-standing grand experiment in democracy is being sorely tested.”
“Now is the time for all of us to follow John Lewis’ example. Now is the time for the U.S. Senate to do the right thing,” Obama said. “America’s long-standing grand experiment in democracy is being sorely tested. Future generations are counting on us to meet that test.”
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