Biden faces down McConnell in clash on voting rights: The Note

It’s a showdown more than half a year – perhaps even decades - in the making.

June 21, 2021, 6:02 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It’s a showdown more than half a year – perhaps even decades - in the making.

This week, Senate Democrats will try to pass a voting-rights overhaul that President Joe Biden has identified as critical to his agenda. The outcome is virtually preordained, with only 49 Democrats and not a single Republican expected to support the “For the People Act,” a version of which has already passed the House.

But whether the expected failure of this bill marks the end of something or the beginning of something else depends on how things play out. Biden and Senate Democratic leaders are challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on terrain he’s familiar with, and with much of Biden’s domestic agenda in the balance.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to Republican senators speak about their opposition to the "For The People Act" on June 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin’s proposed changes to the bill united Democrats for a brief moment – though maybe too well. McConnell is now touting the fact that Stacey Abrams and other prominent progressives are in league with Manchin to boast that all Republicans will oppose the efforts to change voting-rights laws at the federal level.

With 14 states and counting having passed more restrictive voting laws, this is no academic matter. The consequences are vast for voting as well as for the balance of Biden’s extensive agenda, with everything from infrastructure and immigration reform to policing and tax policy depending on some level of bipartisan buy-in.

Biden and McConnell know each other well, and some Democrats are hoping their colleagues – including Manchin – get to know the McConnell they’ve long known in the ensuing days.

Biden’s theory of governance is based on the kind of bipartisan cooperation McConnell has made a career trying to thwart when there’s been a Democrat in the White House. They both can’t be right about how Washington works.

LaTosha Brown holds a sign during the launch of the Freedom Ride for Voting Rights Bus Tour on Juneteenth in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 19, 2021.
Eric J. Shelton/Reuters

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The past weekend saw countless celebrations of freedom in observance of Juneteenth -- momentum in support of the newest national holiday bolstered by the so-called reckoning on race since the murder of George Floyd.

It comes as prominent GOP voices have positioned themselves squarely in opposition to this attempted progression in the national consciousness.

Former Vice President Mike Pence told the audience at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference that "critical race theory is racism" and "Black lives are not endangered by police."

Sen. Ted Cruz told the conference-goers that "critical race theory is bigoted" and "every bit as racist as the Klansmen in white sheet" -- making a deeply offensive comparison between the white supremacist hate group that has a dark history of intimidation, terror and violence toward African Americans and an academic concept that aims to illuminate the impact of institutional racism.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes part in a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 17, 2021.
Leah Millis/Reuters

The fact is comments like that of Cruz and Pence are well received in many GOP circles, as evidenced by the applause at the weekend conference in Orlando, Florida.

As the Republican Party determines a post-Trump era direction in a nation that is only growing more diverse, it's talking points like the aforementioned comments that could stand in the way of any earnest outreach in communities of color.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

With a high-stakes 2022 Senate contest on the horizon, Georgians could be seeing a Trump-supported, famous face join the race against Sen. Raphael Warnock.

In a recent video posted to Twitter, retired NFL running back and famed University of Georgia Bulldog, Herschel Walker, appeared to hint at a possible political future. In the video, Walker revs the engine of his sports car before posing next to its Georgia license plate and saying, "I'm getting ready and we can run with the big dogs."

Herschel Walker talks about 150 years of college football during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, July 16, 2019, in Hoover, Ala.
Butch Dill/AP, FILE

Former President Donald Trump issued a statement in March that urged Walker to jump into the 2022 race, saying, "He would be unstoppable, just like he was when he played for the Georgia Bulldogs and in the NFL. He is also a GREAT person. Run Herschel, run!"

Walker's alliance with Trump goes back decades -- when Trump became the owner of the New Jersey Generals in the early 1980s, he signed Walker to a lucrative contract. Now it remains to be seen whether Trump can offer Walker a springboard into politics by rallying his base behind him in what will be one of the toughest and most closely watched races of the 2022 cycle.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz in Iran, discussing the election of Ebrahim Raisi as president and how it could impact nuclear talks. Then, ABC News White House Correspondent MaryAlice Parks reports on the decision by U.S. Catholic bishops that could bar President Joe Biden from receiving communion. And ABC News Transportation Correspondent Gio Benitez talks about why the summer travel season has been so chaotic for airlines and what upcoming cruises could look like.


  • President Joe Biden meets with lead financial regulators for an update on the state of the country’s financial system and institution at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office.
  • Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at 12 p.m.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks about the child tax credit and how parents can ensure they get the credit at 12:35 p.m. at the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center in Pittsburgh. Then, Harris and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh will hold a roundtable as part of the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment at 2:30 p.m.
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