Analysis: Why Biden didn't do more to avert voting rights defeat
Jun 23, 2021 2 mins, 6 secs

Instead of taking on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's Republicans, who showed the capacity to throttle Biden's legislative plans at any time, the President decided to prioritize other goals, like a bipartisan infrastructure deal and other policy aims he views as closer to the American people.

The first real sign of a White House grassroots campaign on voting rights came when Vice President Kamala Harris dove into a crowd of reporters after presiding over the vote and issued a battle cry meant to resonate through the Democratic base.

It was a moment of drama that seemed to indicate that, with the congressional route blocked, Democrats will make the issue the foundation of their bid to fire up their base in the midterm elections.

That a Washington veteran like Biden chose not to nail his presidential prestige to the voting rights push shows he knew it was doomed.

"I don't think there is anything he could have done that would have materially changed what happened today," said David Axelrod, a former top Barack Obama strategist and a senior CNN political analyst, predicting that Biden would concentrate on issues important to the American people that he could get done.

To that end, the President will address a spike in violence and gun crime at the White House on Wednesday.

But the fact that valuable presidential time is being dedicated to the issue is a sign that Biden understands its potency out in the country, even if it is not necessarily the focus of the most engaged Democratic lawmakers and activists.

Biden now badly needs an infrastructure win

It became clear in recent days that, in the short term at least, the President is mostly invested in a possible bipartisan infrastructure deal with Republicans.

It was noticeable that before the vote, Harris spent time with Alaska GOP Sen.

Jamaal Bowman of New York had told CNN ahead of Tuesday's Senate vote that Biden wasn't "absent" on voting rights but needed to do far more.

And he warned that the small Democratic House majority could be in doubt without promises to enact progressive priorities.

"This is the time for us to be visionary and bold and lead as a Democratic Party," Bowman said on CNN's "Inside Politics." "You cannot guarantee I will vote for an infrastructure package that goes smaller."

But the conundrum for progressives is this: The only way to demonstrate their influence may be to play a spoiler role on a priority that just became an even bigger must-pass for a President of their own party.


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