White House downplays Abrams’ absence from voting rights speech
The White House on Tuesday downplayed the news Stacey Abrams will skip President Biden’s speech in her home state on the need to pass voting rights legislation.
Abrams, the Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has championed voting rights as her marquee issue, will not be in attendance when Biden and Vice President Harris speak in Atlanta, citing a scheduling conflict.
Biden and other White House officials shrugged off questions about her absence, given her prominent role in the state and on the issue of voting rights.
“I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We got our scheduling mixed up,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday before leaving for Georgia. “We’re all on the same page.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden and Abrams “had a warm conversation” ahead of the president’s speech.
“He saw it as a continuation of the conversation they’ve had for the last several years about their shared commitment to protecting the right to vote, to protecting democracy in this country,” Psaki said aboard Air Force One. “And they agreed that it’s important to continue to fight for this and continue moving forward.”
Still, Abrams’ absence comes as a number of voting rights advocates have expressed frustration the president is giving the speech at all given the lack of progress on the issue. A number of local advocacy groups urged Biden not to come to Georgia without a concrete plan to pass voting rights legislation.
Biden later Tuesday will urge passage of two pieces of legislation: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to force votes this week on both bills, though Republicans are set to use the 60-vote legislative filibuster to block them from advancing.
Biden is expected to reiterate his support for alterations to the filibuster to get voting rights legislation passed, though it’s unclear what changes members of his own party would support.
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