President Joe Biden cast the fight for voting rights in sweeping terms Thursday after the Senate failed to advance a bill on the matter this week, casting blame on Republicans for stymieing the effort in the Senate.
During an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, Biden said, “We now face an inflection point in the battle, literally, for the soul of America” over voting rights, specifically calling out former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy.
“Today, the right to vote and the rule of law are under unrelenting assault from Republican governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state, state legislators, and they’re following my predecessor, the last president, into a deep, deep black hole and abyss,” Biden said in lengthy remarks at the MLK memorial at Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin.
“This struggle is no longer over who gets to vote, and make it easier for eligible people to vote. It’s about who gets to count the votes, whether they should count at all,” he said, railing against a “sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion.”
The remarks come as the White House is expected to ramp up Biden and Harris’ public engagement on the matter following the failed legislative efforts, with advocates calling on the administration to do more.
Biden went after Republicans for their procedural move Wednesday that refused to open debate on the voting rights bill, which had full Democratic support.
“It’s unfair, it’s unconscionable, and it’s un-American. This battle is far from over, the door has not been closed. … We have to keep up the fight and get it done,” Biden said.
He specifically called out misinformation, referring to those who believe Trump is still president.
“Something like 20% – or half of Republicans or registered Republicans – (believe) I am not your President. Donald Trump is still your president. As we Catholics say, oh my God,” his voice exaggerating as he made the sign of the cross.
Biden was introduced by Vice President Kamala Harris, who also lambasted Senate Republicans and vowed to press on.
“Fight we must, and fight we will,” Harris, who has been tasked with leading the administration’s efforts on voting rights, said as she invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for justice.
“As leaders, we must leverage our own power, and we all have a role to play. And the President and I are clear on ours: we are, and must be, unwavering in this fight. And we must use our voice to call out any effort to obstruct justice,” she said.
Biden also promoted his administration’s commitment to equity and his economic agenda and bipartisan infrastructure package, painting in broad strokes about its provisions, with references to broadband access, job creation, clean drinking water, improvements to roads and bridges, child and elder care, preschool, and expanding Pell grants.
He touted equity in the administration’s vaccination response, as well, including vaccination rates of Black Americans, and noted efforts toward lowering prescription drug prices, tying his overall agenda to King’s values.
Biden also cited his administration’s investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which were passed earlier this year.
He broadly called for efforts to “reduce pollution,” which comes as Democratic negotiators remain engaged over climate provisions in the economic agenda ahead of a major global climate summit. At the same time, Biden expressed empathy for the “frustration we all feel” after efforts toward police reform after negotiators ended talks last month after key sticking points prove insurmountable, saying his administration is “gonna continue to fight for real police reform.”
The President also touted his efforts to increasing representation, noting he has appointed more Black women in federal circuit courts than any administration in history.
Biden also touched on domestic terrorism, anti-Semitism, and racism, vowing, “We cannot and must not give hate any safe harbor.”