Democrats back where they started on voting rights: The Note

Changing the volume doesn’t change votes.

January 12, 2022, 6:01 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

"I'm tired of being quiet," President Joe Biden said Tuesday, describing his frustration with private conversations that have failed to change the dynamics around voting rights.

But changing the volume doesn't change votes -- and, tellingly, the president still didn't name names. He raised the stakes -- a "turning point in this nation's history," "not just for the moment, but for the ages" -- in a debate that's been frozen for a year at the federal level, with few hopes of a different outcome in the Senate.

Biden and his Democratic Party are about where they've been all along: divided on tactics and strategy, frustrated with each other and probably not changing the minds that matter. A vow to change Senate rules "whichever way they need to be changed" doesn't matter if all Senate Democrats fail to agree when a vote is forced by leadership in the coming days.

It might be that Biden had no choice but to engage like this, given the passions inside his base of voters. It also might be that it's too late for meaningful federal action anyway, with newly drawn congressional districts already being litigated in courts and the first primary votes of the midterm year barely a month from being cast.

Still, if Biden's goal is to change laws rather than shame members of Congress who see things another way, it's hard to see how this ends in something other than disappointment for Democrats.

Biden is attacking mainly Republicans -- specifically those who are acting on lies about the last election. He also, though, offered a critique of his fellow Democrats and, indirectly, even himself.

"We have 50-50 in the United States Senate -- that means we have 51 presidents," the president said. "You all think I'm kidding."

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical advisor, took Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul to task during a Senate hearing Tuesday, accusing Paul of using inflamed tensions on COVID for his own political benefit.

"You personally attack me and with absolutely not a shred of evidence of anything you say," Fauci said. "So I would like to make something clear to the committee. He's doing this for political reasons."

PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill
Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Fauci said Paul's attacks have resulted in death threats and harassment for him and his family, highlighting an incident in which a California man was arrested in Iowa with an alleged "hit list" that included Fauci and Biden. During the heated exchange, a fired-up Fauci pulled out a printed screenshot of Paul's campaign fundraising website.

"I asked myself, 'Why would a senator want to do this?' So go to Rand Paul website, and you see 'Fire Dr. Fauci' with a little box that says 'contribute here.' You can do $5 $10 $20 $100," Fauci said. "So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain."

Paul, who is up for reelection, countered via Twitter that Fauci was using his position to "silence dissent." The confrontation is only the latest flare-up between the lawmaker and immunologist, who have clashed throughout the pandemic.

It comes amid the ongoing COVID surge across the country including in the commonwealth Paul represents. There, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is pleading for Kentuckians to get vaccinated and wear masks as COVID cases hit record levels and concerns mount that hospitals could be overwhelmed.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Despite Biden's calls for strengthening voting rights, ongoing redistricting efforts across the country are already reshaping the political landscapes in which many Americans could be casting their ballots in the coming months.

In a blow to Democrats -- and as potential evidence of the limits of challenging redistricting in court -- on Tuesday, North Carolina's three-judge panel charged with addressing the state's newly drawn map upheld the changes. The revisions are likely to give Republicans strong majorities in both the state legislature and the U.S. House. However, the panel's decision is expected to face an appeal to the state Supreme Court from voting advocacy groups.

PHOTO: State Rep. Destin Hall, a top Republican redistricting official, testifies during a partisan gerrymandering trial, Jan. 5, 2022, at Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, N.C.
State Rep. Destin Hall, a top Republican redistricting official, testifies during a partisan gerrymandering trial, Jan. 5, 2022, at Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, N.C.
The News & Observer via AP

Meanwhile in Tennessee, the Associated Press reported state House Republicans are poised to split the Democratic-leaning area of Nashville into multiple congressional districts. Although a formal map has yet to be proposed, the suggested changes would likely eliminate one of the state's two Democratic seats.

As noted by FiveThirtyEight, the Democratic majority in New York's state Senate and state Assembly rejected both redistricting proposals put forth by the state's bipartisan redistricting commission. The commission now has about two weeks to send in a new proposal, which could fail again, thereby allowing Democrats to draw their own maps.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Wednesday morning with analysis of President Biden's address on voting rights from ABC's Cecilia Vega. Then, we speak with ABC's Juju Chang on her exclusive interview with Jamie Lynn Spears. And, Sony Salzman explains which masks we're supposed to be wearing to protect against omicron. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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