Harris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to ‘do its job’
Vice President Harris marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday with a speech in which she urged lawmakers to honor the civil rights giant’s legacy by passing voting rights legislation.
Harris, addressing Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church remotely from Washington, argued that Americans’ freedom to vote is “under assault” by GOP laws in Georgia and other states that she said could make it harder for 55 million Americans to vote.
The vice president accused supporters of those laws of seeking to “interfere” with U.S. elections “to get the outcomes they want” and urged the Senate to “do its job” by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is currently stalled in the upper chamber.
“We know the threat we face. We know that this assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American in every community in every political party. We know that, if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come,” Harris said in prepared remarks delivered from the White House.
“Today, we must not be complacent or complicit; we must not give up; and we must not give in. To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote, for freedom for all,” she continued.
Harris’s remarks Monday capped a weeklong, forceful push by the Biden administration for passage of legislation named after the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis as well as an election reform bill known as the Freedom to Vote Act.
Last week, President Biden and Harris traveled to Atlanta to speak about voting rights. In a fiery speech, Biden pushed the Senate to weaken the legislative filibuster — the 60-vote threshold for advancing most legislation — in order for the bills to pass amid GOP opposition.
However, the president has not been successful in moving Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), two moderates who oppose changing the filibuster.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is expected to tee up a vote to end debate on a bill that merges both pieces of voting rights legislation when the Senate returns on Tuesday.
Following her remarks, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are expected to take part in a service event at Martha’s Table, a local nonprofit in D.C.
The White House public schedule was otherwise largely empty on the federal holiday. Biden, who spent the long weekend at his home in Delaware, recorded a video statement that the White House distributed on Monday. Biden and first lady Jill Biden packed food boxes at a food bank in Philadelphia on Sunday as part of a day of service for the holiday.
During her speech on Monday, which lasted about five minutes, Harris described King as a “prophet” who pushed for change in the United States despite threats on his own life and against his family.
“He was a prophet in that he saw the present exactly how it was and the future as how it could be, and he pushed our nation toward that future,” Harris said.
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