Biden kicks off global democracy summit, acknowledges challenges in US

President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE on Thursday kicked off the first-ever Summit for Democracy by acknowledging the challenges within the United States.

“Here in the United States, we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy and strengthening our democratic institutions requires constant effort. American democracy is an ongoing struggle to live up to our highest ideals, to heal our divisions and to recommit ourselves to the founding idea of our nation,” he said in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. 

Roughly 80 world leaders attended the opening remarks virtually, including from France, Canada, India, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Japan, Israel and the Philippines, and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPutin, Macron to hold call on Friday amid rising Russia-Ukraine tensions Meeks leading bipartisan trip to Ukraine amid Russia tensions Negotiating with a liar (Putin's dog is a cat)  MORE spoke after the president. The virtual gathering is expected to include more than 100 participants from governments, civil society and the private sector.

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This summit, Biden said, is “not to assert that any one of our democracies is perfect or has all the answers, but to lock arms and reaffirm our shared commitment to make our democracies better, to share ideas and learn from each other, and to make concrete commitments of how to strength our own democracies and push back on authoritarian, fight corruption, promote and protection human rights of people everywhere, to act, to act.” 

Biden promised during his campaign to set up the event in his first year in office. The summit is, in part, intended to reinvigorate the image of the United States as a healthy democracy, something tarnished by the mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“This gathering has been on my mind for a long time for a simple reason. In the face of sustained and alarming challenges to democracy, universal human rights, and all around the world, democracy needs champions,” the president said. 

The summit will launch a year of action, during which the U.S. intends to work with participating governments and nongovernmental actors to develop new pledges and initiatives that can be announced at a second Summit for Democracy next year.

“Democracies are not all the same, we don’t agree on everything, all of us in this meeting today, but the choices we make together are going to define, in my view, the course of our shared future for generations to come,” Biden said.

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The summit is a clear challenge to China and Russia, both countries who were not invited and have slammed Biden for holding the event. Hungary and Turkey were also not invited. Taiwan, which China claims sovereignty over, was invited to the summit.

Biden said he launched on Thursday a Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, which he said aims to bolster democratic resistance and human rights.

The initiative will include committing $224 million in the next year “to shore up transparent and accountable governance,” in areas like supporting media freedom, fighting international corruption, protecting whistleblowers, cracking down on money laundering, advancing women and girls in civic engagement, empowering the LGBT community and addressing online harassment and surveillance technology that suppresses rights. 

Biden called the media “the bedrock of democracy” and said his administration will launch an effort to sustain independent media around the world, which will include standing up a defamation defense fund for journalists through the United States Agency for International Development. 

The president said his administration sees voting rights as a priority and called for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John LewisJohn LewisTrump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Despite Senate setbacks, the fight for voting rights is far from over MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act. He quoted the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who in his final public words said, “Democracy is not a state, it’s an act.”

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Biden said his administration so far has doubled the number of attorneys defending and enforcing voting rights laws at the Department of Justice.

In his remarks, Biden touted the American Rescue Plan for getting COVID-19 vaccines out to Americans and people around the world and the bipartisan infrastructure bill for providing clean water and well-paying union jobs.

He then called for Congress to pass his Build Back Better agenda. Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (D-N.Y.) is keeping pressure on Senate Democrats to try to meet his deadline for passing the climate and social spending bill before Christmas, but Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden to meet with CEOs to discuss Build Back Better agenda Hoyer says 'significant' version of Build Back Better will pass this year Gallego went to New York to meet Sinema donors amid talk of primary challenge: report MORE (D-W.Va.) said on Tuesday that he is concerned about inflation and warned his party against rushing it.