Biden calls for voting rights passage on anniversary of John Lewis’s death

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President Biden on Saturday called on Congress to pass two pieces of voting rights legislation on the one-year anniversary of Rep. John Lewis’s (D-Ga.) death. 

In a statement released by the White House Saturday evening commemorating Lewis’s passing, Biden reflected on the days just before the longtime congressman and Civil Rights icon died in July of 2020.

The president said that Lewis maintained dignity and grace before death from Stage IV pancreatic cancer. 

“Instead of answering our concerns for him, he asked us to remain focused on the unfinished work – his life’s work – of healing and uniting this nation,” Biden said. 

Biden added that during his first six months in office, he has thought back to that time with Lewis. The commander in chief said that while the United States has made progress pulling through the pandemic, there was still much to be done to ensure progress in health care, criminal justice and the economy. 

“Perhaps most of all, it means continuing the cause that John was willing to give his life for: protecting the sacred right to vote,” Biden said. “Not since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s have we seen such unrelenting attacks on voting rights and the integrity of our elections – from the Big Lie to the insurrection on January 6th to the new waves of voter suppression and a new front of election subversion.”

“I again call on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act so I can sign them into law,” Biden concluded, referring to a piece of voting rights legislation named after Lewis. 

On Tuesday, Biden issued similar remarks regarding Lewis and the federal election legislation. 

“Last month, Republicans opposed even debating, even considering the For The People Act. Senate Democrats stood united to protect our democracy and the sanctity of the vote. We must pass the For The People Act, it’s a national imperative,” Biden said.

The message from the president comes amid a push by the Biden administration and Democrats to promote voting rights and warn against former President Trump’s unsupported claims that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” and tainted by widespread voter fraud. 

A slew of GOP-led legislatures have proposed or passed election legislation that would tighten voting restrictions, including on ballot drop boxes, mail-in voting and voter ID requirements. 

These bills have cropped up in states like Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Texas. 

This week, Texas Democrats fled their state to Washington, D.C., in order to prevent passage of a new elections law. The lawmakers from the Lone Star State also met with Vice President Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin to discuss voting rights while in the nation’s capital. 

The call from Biden also comes as both pieces of voting rights legislation he mentioned have stalled in Congress. In particular, the For The People Act was blocked by a GOP filibuster in the Senate late last month. Both bills have very little Republican support. 

Other lawmakers, including Lewis’s successor Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) commemorated Lewis Saturday. 

A year ago today, we lost a giant. Our hero. Our friend. The Conscience of the Congress,” Williams wrote. “We must keep up the #GoodTrouble to pass #HR1 and #HR4 #ForThePeople.”

Updated 9:13 p.m.

Tags Chuck Schumer Donald Trump For the People Act Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis John Lewis death John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act voting rights
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