The US Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, has ripped into President Joe Biden’s speech in which he urged the Senate to change its filibuster rules to pass voting and elections legislation.
The senior American senator from Kentucky and Senate Minority Leader dismissed Biden’s speech as a “rant,” “incoherent,” “incorrect,” “beneath his office” and “profoundly unpresidential.”
“How profoundly, profoundly unpresidential,” McConnell said on Capitol Hill Wednesday. “I’ve known, liked, and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at that podium yesterday.”
The Democratic president had on Tuesday likened supporters of Senate rule changes to civil rights icons like Martin Luther King and its opponents to segregationists like George Wallace.
“At consequential moments in history, they present a choice,” Biden said in his impassioned and widely criticized speech. “Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
He said the push to pass the legislation was a “battle for the soul of America”, adding that the 60-vote rule – also known as the filibuster – had reduced the Senate into “a shell of its former self”.
The Senate minority leader referred to Biden’s inaugural speech last January in which he said “every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”
“That was just 12 months ago. But yesterday, he poured a giant can of gasoline on the fire,” the senior senator remarked, adding that Biden said “anyone who opposes smashing the Senate and letting Democrats rewrite election law is a domestic ‘enemy’ and a traitor like Jefferson Davis.”
He noted that sitting president of the US had compared American states to “totalitarian states”.
“He said our country will be an autocracy if he does not get his way, if he does not get his way. So the world saw our commander-in-chief propagandize against his own country, his own country in a way that would have made Pravda blush,” McConnell asserted.
The Republican senator was scathing in his criticism of the incumbent US president, slamming his $2 trillion Build Back Better spending legislation presently sitting in the Senate.
“The story is that democracy is on death’s door. But he spent nine months chasing a reckless taxing and spending spree before addressing it. It must not be that much of an emergency,” McConnell said, referring to the controversial and much-maligned legislation.
Senate Democrats have made serious efforts to push two major voting rights bills, while Democratic leadership has proposed abolishing the filibuster to make that happen.
Biden on Tuesday called for ending the congressional procedure, saying “the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote, let the majority prevail.”
“And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this,” he added.
McConnell, however, blasted Biden’s remarks, calling his speech an “advertisement” for the filibuster.
“You could not invent a better advertisement for the legislative filibuster than what we’re just seeing, a president abandoning rational persuasion for pure, pure demagoguery,” he said.
McConnell also claimed that Democrats were undermining the 2022 elections as polls show significant drop in Biden’s approval ratings.
“The people who spent November 2020 through January 21 preaching sermons about the strength and the sanctity of our democracy are now undertaking to delegitimize the next election in case they lose it,” he noted, in an acerbic attack at Democrats.