President Joe Biden on Tuesday placed Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of his administration’s efforts to pass voting rights legislation and promised to battle an “unprecedented assault on our democracy” from Republican-controlled state legislatures.
“We’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again,” Biden said in a speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacre of Black residents there. “I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal.”
Biden’s comments ― and his decision to hand Harris a high-profile task ― are likely to soothe voting rights activists, who have occasionally worried about the administration’s dedication to passing H.R. 1, an omnibus law aimed at reforming American democracy, and the more narrowly targeted John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which aims to block state-level voter suppression efforts.
In a statement released after Biden’s speech, Harris promised to work with “voting rights organizations, community organizations, and the private sector to help strengthen and uplift efforts on voting rights nationwide” and to work with Congress “to help advance these bills.”
“Our Administration will not stand by when confronted with any effort that keeps Americans from voting,” Harris promised.
In his speech, Biden directly noted the difficulty of passing such laws.
“I hear all the folks on TV, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’” he said. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with our Republican friends.”
Biden’s comments were likely referencing Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have both declared staunch opposition to weakening or eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote requirement to pass most legislation. Sinema supports H.R. 1, while Manchin does not.
While the two are considered the most centrist Democrats in the Senate, both typically vote with their party.
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