“On Voting Rights, Biden Prefers to Negotiate. This Time, It Might Not Be Possible.”


Yet even with his decades of work on the topic, he faces especially wrenching decisions when it comes to the voting rights legislation. Known as the For the People Act, the bill is the professed No. 1 priority of Democrats this year. It would overhaul the nation’s elections system, rein in campaign donations and limit partisan gerrymandering. But after passing the House, it hit a wall of Republican opposition in the Senate.

With little likelihood of the measure winning enough Republican support to meet the 60-vote threshold necessary for passage, Mr. Biden now faces a choice: Scale back his ambitions for addressing voting rights or abandon hopes of a bipartisan compromise and instead seek to jam it through on a partisan vote in the equally divided chamber by further rolling back one of the foundations of Senate tradition, the filibuster.

Along with his push for a bipartisan compromise on his infrastructure proposal, it is the clearest choice he has faced yet between his instinct to negotiate and confronting the realities of Senate partisanship in 2021….

Faced with such slim odds over the more ambitious piece of legislation, Mr. Biden has privately reminded members of his own party in White House meetings that, with any bill, there are must-haves and like-to-haves.

In a recent meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden urged them to consider the pieces of the bill they could live without.

He stressed to the group that the measure’s chances were low without compromise.

“He was really concerned about navigating through the Senate,” said Representative Brenda Lawrence, Democrat of Michigan. “He said that in a number of situations: ‘We have to get this done.’”

Mr. Biden has yet to say publicly how he intends to proceed. He has avoided getting involved in negotiations over the legislation. But the president has also been reluctant to come out in public support of eliminating the filibuster, especially since Mr. Manchin — a vital vote for nearly all of the president’s priorities — has so far opposed doing so, effectively taking that option off the table for now.


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