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Decades before President Biden asked senators on Tuesday if they were “on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” he voted to restore the U.S. citizenship of the president of the Confederacy, according to a report.
Biden used the reference during a fiery speech in Atlanta, encouraging Democrats to go around the filibuster to pass federal voting rights legislation, which he said would be a “turning point in this nation’s history.”
Republicans say voting laws should be left up to the states.
But in 1977, Biden was part of the Senate Judiciary Committee when it unanimously voted to have Davis’ citizenship restored, according to the Washington Examiner.
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The bill was later signed into law by then-President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat.
In 1876, Congress refused to reinstate Davis’ citizenship after the Civil War. He had been charged with treason after the South lost.
The 1977 legislation wasn’t controversial at the time, the Examiner reported, showing how Americans’ opinions of Confederate leaders have changed over the years.
The bill said Davis “had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier” before joining the Confederacy and the bill sought to “clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation.”
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Tuesday was the first time Biden said he favored changing Senate rules to possibly eliminate the filibuster.
Biden made other comparisons between historical figures during Tuesday’s speech at the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, including “Dr. King or George Wallace?” and “John Lewis or Bull Connor?”
Republican-led states like Georgia and Texas passed restrictive voting laws last year after Biden won the election, which conservatives say will make voting more secure. Democrats say the new laws will cause voter suppression.