President Biden said Tuesday that Georgia’s most famous advocate of federal election reform, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, is skipping Biden’s Atlanta speech calling for Senate action due to a “scheduling” issue.
Abrams’ absence avoids awkward optics for the president, who is expected to say Republican state election law changes are the result of former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” that he lost the 2020 election due to voter fraud. Abrams lost Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election to Republican Brian Kemp.
However, like Trump, Abrams refused to concede, and claimed she was cheated.
Abrams is running for governor again this year. Her campaign and the White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for details on the scheduling conflict.
Biden told reporters as he left the White House that “everything is fine” between him and Abrams.
“I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We got our scheduling mixed up,” Biden said. “I talked with her at length this morning. We are all on the same page and everything is fine.”
Vice President Kamala Harris is joining Biden in Atlanta. Biden chose Harris as his running mate last year after Abrams openly lobbied for the role.
Biden’s remarks will reprise the themes of his fiery Jan. 6 speech on the anniversary of the Capitol riot, in which the president claimed that “in state after state, new laws are being written not to protect the vote, but to deny it … not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.”
Abrams refused to concede after losing the 2018 gubernatorial election by 1.4 percentage points. She blamed her loss on Kemp’s purge of 1.4 million registered voters in his role as Georgia’s secretary of state and national Democrats rallied to her cause.
“Concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede,” Abrams said in 2018. “I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right,” she said.
Critics say Biden has misrepresented state laws that Republicans contend are meant to reduce the risk of voter fraud and to phase out COVID-19 pandemic policies that expanded remote voting.
The Washington Post, which endorsed Biden, awarded the president “Four Pinocchios” in April for falsely describing a new Georgia law’s impact on voting hours.
“Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over,” Biden said, incorrectly describing the law’s provisions.
The Georgia law does not alter Election Day voting hours but expands early voting by adding a second mandatory Saturday. It affirms that counties can open for early voting on two Sundays and allows counties to extend early voting hours beyond normal business hours. Democrats oppose provisions that require a photo ID to get an absentee ballot, shorten the window of time to vote absentee and allow state officials to take over local election offices in response to alleged misconduct.
Biden is pushing a pair of base-rallying Democratic bills that are stalled in the evenly divided Senate due to Republican opposition and the qualms of centrist Democrats who don’t want to lower the threshold to a simple majority to pass most bills from the usual 60 votes.
One of the bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would force certain states to gain federal approval to change election laws, responding to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that reduced post-Civil Rights Era oversight.
Senate Democrats also hope to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, which is a pared down version of the For the People Act that stalled last year.
The Freedom to Vote Act would make Election Day a federal holiday, force states to allow no-excuse mail-in voting and require that most jurisdictions allow 10 hours per day of early voting for two weeks before an election, with smaller windows allowed in sparsely populated areas.
The bill’s mail-in voting provisions would bar states from imposing a signature verification policy or requiring that people who request a ballot first provide identification.
Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have floated a compromise where they would reduce the role of Congress in certifying the results of the Electoral College results, arguing it would in effect eliminate the possibility of another deadly riot aimed at reversing a presidential election outcome.
Biden’s push for federal legislation is likely to amount to little if Senate centrists remain unswayed.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) set a deadline of next Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to either pass the two bills in question or change the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes to advance most proposals.
But a spokeswoman for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said last month that Sinema “continues to support the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, to protect the country from repeated radical reversals in federal policy which would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions, and further erode Americans’ confidence in our government.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also supports keeping the upper chamber’s 60-vote threshold for most non-budget legislation.