WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday that President Joe Biden's speech about changing the filibuster to ease passage of voting rights bills was "profoundly unpresidential."
"I have known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday."
In a long-awaited speech about voting rights Tuesday, Biden framed voting rights as an issue that has historically received bipartisan support and accused Senate Republicans of lacking the "courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect the right to vote."
Republican obstruction, he said, has left Democrats with "no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this."
McConnell called Biden's speech a "rant" that was "incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office."
"Unfortunately, President Biden has rejected the better angels of our nature. So it is the Senate's responsibility to protect the country," McConnell said.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., also called Biden's speech "profoundly unpresidential," in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday. “This was a racially tinged attack and designed nothing more, nothing less than for a political moment," Thune said.
Biden made an appearance Wednesday at the Capitol to pay his respects to former Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid, who lay in state in the Rotunda. Asked to respond to McConnell's remarks, he said: “I like Mitch McConnell. He’s a friend.”
As he was departing, Biden stopped by McConnell's office, but McConnell said they "didn't connect" because he wasn't in his office. “I don’t need to do that. I think I said what I felt about yesterday," McConnell said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that the Senate would vote on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act by Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The bills have majority support to pass but lack 60 votes to defeat a filibuster.
After both bills fail, Democrats will consider changing Senate rules, Schumer said.
Schumer has told colleagues to expect a vote on a change to the filibuster rule to allow the bills to come up on a majority-vote basis on or before Jan. 17.