(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden will work to rally public support Tuesday for passage of voting rights legislation that Senate Republicans vow to block, even as some allies complain he hasn’t done enough to advance the measure.

Biden will make the case for a bill to prevent states from curbing access to balloting during a trip to Atlanta, which includes a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church and remarks alongside Vice President Kamala Harris at Morehouse College. The president will evoke the legacies of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis and cast the vote as “the most bedrock of American rights,” according to the White House.

“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice?” Biden will say, according to an excerpt of his prepared remarks released by the White House. “I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is, where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president plans to “describe this as one of the rare moments in a country’s history when time stops, and the essential is immediately ripped away from the trivial.” 

The president’s trip, however, has drawn objections from some of his allies, who are upset he didn’t make a priority of voting rights months ago and instead focused on trying to win passage of his tax and spending plan. Voting activists in Georgia said Biden and Harris would make better use of their time staying in Washington to prod their caucus.

“If President Biden was going to make a speech calling for its passage, more important than doing it in Georgia would’ve been actually doing it in the Senate at one of the Dem caucus meetings, which by the way would’ve allowed them to hear his speech at breakfast and go out and vote by lunchtime,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, a group credited with helping to flip the state for Biden in 2020.

Focus on Filibuster

Biden’s event is designed to ratchet up pressure on reticent Senate Democrats -- including West Virgina’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Krysten Sinema -- for a controversial one-time change in Senate filibuster rules that would clear the way for action on voting rights. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who presides over a chamber split 50-50 with Republicans, is setting up for a vote on altering filibuster rules.

But the pivot toward voting rights comes just weeks after Manchin dealt the president’s domestic agenda a crippling blow, saying he would withhold his decisive vote for the White House’s nearly $1.8 trillion package of social programs, environmental spending and new taxes.

Failure on voting rights could prove more devastating, threatening to harden perceptions among the Democrats’ activist base that the president has squandered limited time for achieving progressive policy goals. Before the president’s trip, voting rights advocates expressed frustration that he might skirt detailed prescriptions for how wants the Senate rules to change, amounting to a push that’s too little, too late.

“How far is the president willing to go and how specific is the president willing to get?” said Tré Easton, deputy director of Battle Born Collective, a left-leaning group that tries to steer progressive policies through Congress. “We just got to the point of him being comfortable with a carveout of the filibuster for voting rights, but it took 12 months to get there.”

Either Way, Risks 

Congressional inaction would allow a raft of restrictive new state-level voting laws to go into effect for November’s midterm elections, adding to Democrats’ challenge of holding their narrow control of the House and Senate. 

The effect could be significant, especially in Georgia, where Republicans have passed new restrictions on absentee voting that could hurt the re-election prospects of Senator Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist, a church that King also led. 

Warnock, who won the runoff of a special election in 2021 and must face the voters again this fall, has championed voting rights. 

Yet by endorsing significant changes to the Senate rules, Biden opens the door to Republican attacks, risking further erosion among swing voters already frustrated by his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and inflation.

Biden has described passage of voting protections as a moral imperative, and aides say he’s intentionally raising the stakes of the debate.

Tuesday’s speech follows a warning the president sounded during last week’s commemoration of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that former President Donald Trump and his supporters were holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy.” 

A long-shot victory would provide Biden much-needed political momentum, breaking a spell of defeats and missteps that have hung over his administration in recent months -- while also burnishing his credibility with progressives. Even a failed vote could demonstrate his commitment on the issue, and address activists’ complaints he’s been too reticent on the issue.

Democrats Squabble

Unfortunately for Biden, Senate Democrats don’t even agree on exactly what changes to the filibuster they should attempt. Ideas under consideration include a “talking filibuster” that makes it more personally taxing for bill opponents to hold up legislation because they would have to remain on the floor speaking. 

Manchin also underscored last week his concerns about using the so-called “nuclear option” to change Senate rules, which would require a simple majority.

Republicans four times last year denied Senate consideration of bills drafted by Democrats that would allow automatic voter registration, bar partisan “gerrymandering” of congressional districts, allow Justice Department review of some state voting law rewrites and make other changes. Republican-dominated legislatures in many states have tightened access to the ballot after Trump’s false allegations that Biden’s election was fraudulent.

At least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting voter access to ballots between Jan. 1 and Dec. 7 of 2021, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have defended the actions of GOP-led legislatures and have said Democrats exaggerate their impact on minority voters. McConnell has vowed to keep Republicans united against the Democrat-drafted voting rights legislation.

The White House has acknowledged the obstacles, with Psaki calling a reporter’s query Monday about whether Biden could be the tipping point on the legislation a “hard question to answer.”

Some Democrats think Biden’s trip to Georgia will helpful -- even if it doesn’t sway the outcome of the Senate rules fight.

Strategist Maria Cardona said the trip could help motivate voters in the state by framing the upcoming Senate and gubernatorial elections.

“The bully pulpit still works if you know how to use it, and he’s showed that he does,” she said.

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