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Biden to meet with Senate Democrats on voting rights Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will attend a Senate Democratic meeting on Thursday to discuss the party’s intensified push to enact voting rights legislation and possible changes to Senate rules.

Biden on Tuesday made an impassioned appeal for federal voting rights legislation stalled in Congress, saying Democratic lawmakers should rewrite Senate “filibuster” rules to overcome Republican opposition.

In a speech also designed to convince skeptical Democrats of his commitment, Biden called many Republicans cowardly and threw his support behind changing the rules to pass the legislation.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be working the phones over the next several days pushing senators on the issue, a White House official said.

On Thursday afternoon, Biden will meet with the Senate Democratic Caucus “to discuss the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections against un-American attacks based on the Big Lie, and to again underline that doing so requires changing the rules of the Senate to make the institution work again,” the official said.

The “Big Lie” refers to former President Donald Trump’s false claims about fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

A Senate Democratic aide said Biden is expected to attend a caucus lunch meeting.

Democrats, after long pushing voting rights legislation, are trying to bring this issue to a head, linking it to a federal holiday honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.
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They also feel pressured to notch a win on voting rights with the midterm congressional primary season starting in March.

Trump maintains the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats through voter fraud, despite Biden’s substantial victory and investigations finding no evidence to support fraud. Since then, Republican lawmakers in 19 states have passed dozens of laws making it harder to vote. Critics say these measures target minorities, who vote in greater proportions for Democrats.

Biden wants to build public support for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bills would make Election Day a holiday, register new voters and strengthen U.S. Justice Department oversight of local election jurisdictions with a history of discrimination.

The bills have languished in the divided Senate under united opposition from Republicans, who argue they would impose questionable national standards on local elections.

The filibuster is a parliamentary maneuver effectively requiring a 60-vote majority in the 100-member Senate for passage of most bills, instead of a simple majority.

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