Biden, the White House said, will deliver “remarks on actions to protect the sacred, constitutional right to vote.”
It remains unclear how much his administration can accomplish in protecting voting rights, but the speech reflects that it remains a major issue for the President and the administration. Passing new voting legislation in Congress will almost certainly require altering filibuster rules, since Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate isn’t enough to overcome GOP opposition. Moderate Democrats have opposed major changes to the rules, making the future of new voting laws unclear. Biden has also stopped short of supporting elimination of the filibuster but has expressed openness to making the practice harder to execute.
The speech will come after Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping voting rights, election overhaul and government ethics package last month, as well as after a Supreme Court ruling that limited the ability of minorities to challenge state laws they say are discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act.
It also comes after Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with the issue as part of her portfolio, met behind closed doors this week with leaders from legacy civil rights groups. The leaders implored him to speak out amid restrictive state voting bills. The attendees warned Biden and Harris on Thursday that time is running short to enact new voting rules as several Republican-led states are considering more restrictive laws.
“It was a meeting in which there was honest realism about where we are, and perhaps most importantly, a commitment to do everything possible in the interest of American democracy,” Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the national chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women, told CNN after the meeting.
Cole reflected on the sobriety of the conversation.
“The President communicated the difficulty of our struggle, but he refuses to give up hope. And those of us in the civil rights organizations, we’re not sitting around doing ‘Kumbaya’ and waiting for miracles to happen. And we understand the seriousness of this threat. We know the numbers of Democrats and Republicans in both chambers,” she said, but added that the group is “ready for the fight.”
With legislative efforts stalled on Capitol Hill, Harris on Thursday teamed with the Democratic National Committee, announcing a $25 million investment aimed at shoring up the party’s “I Will Vote” effort ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
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