Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden came out forcefully to demand protection of voting rights and election integrity in speeches in Atlanta and called for removing the filibuster, weaponized as an obstacle to Senate action. Republicans in the Senate and House immediately twisted and attacked the Democrats’ desire to assure free and equal access to the ballot and fair counting as an attempt to hijack elections, rather than preserve the foundational element of democracy, dismissing what Republican-dominated legislatures are doing around the country to – by simple majority vote – enact voter suppression, gerrymandered maps and rules that allow them to subvert elections by overturning the will of the majority.
“The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party….The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act,” Harris declared. “We will fight to secure our most fundamental freedom: the freedom to vote.“ Here is a highlighted transcript of Vice President Harris’ remarks:
Last week, one year after a violent mob breached the United States Capitol, the President of the United States and I spoke from its hallowed halls and we made clear: We swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. And we will. We will fight. (Applause.) We will fight to safeguard our democracy. We will fight to secure our most fundamental freedom: the freedom to vote.
And that is why we have come to Atlanta today — to the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement; to the district that was represented by the great Congressman John Lewis — (applause) — on the eve of the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Applause.)
More than 55 years ago, men, women, and children marched from Selma to Montgomery to demand the ballot. And when they arrived at the State Capitol in Alabama, Dr. King decried what he called “normalcy” — the normalcy, the complacency that was denying people the freedom to vote.
The only normalcy anyone should accept, Dr. King said, is the “normalcy of justice.” And his words resonate today.
Over the past few years, we have seen so many anti-voter laws that there is a danger of becoming accustomed to these laws, a danger of adjusting to these laws as though they are normal, a danger of being complacent, complicit.
Anti-voter laws are not new in our nation, but we must not be deceived into thinking they are normal.
We must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it more difficult for students to vote is normal.
We must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it illegal to help a voter with a disability vote by mail is normal. (Applause.)
There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines. (Applause.)
And I have met with voters in Georgia. I have heard your outrage about the anti-voter law here and how many voters will likely be kept from voting.
And Georgia is not alone. Across our nation, anti-voter laws could make it more difficult for as many as 55 million Americans to vote. That is one out of six people in our country.
And the proponents of these laws are not only putting in place obstacles to the ballot box, they are also working to interfere with our elections to get the outcomes they want and to discredit those they don’t.
That is not how a democracy should work.
My fellow Americans: Do not succumb to those who would dismiss this assault on voting rights as an unfounded threat — who would wave this off as a partisan game.
The assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party.
And if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.
As Dr. King said, “The battle is in our hands.” And today, the battle is in the hands of the leaders of the American people, those in particular that the American people sent to the United States Senate.
Two landmark bills sit before the United States Senate: the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. (Applause.)
And these two bills represent the first real opportunity to secure the freedom to vote since the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act nearly a decade ago.
We do not know when we will have this opportunity again. Senate Republicans have exploited arcane rules to block these bills.
And let us be clear: The Constitution of the United States gives the Congress the power to pass legislation. And nowhere — nowhere — does the Constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation. (Applause.)
The American people have waited long enough. The Senate must act.
And the bottom line is this: Years from now, our children and our grandchildren, they will ask us about this moment. They will look back on this time, and they will ask us not about how we felt — they will ask us what did we do.
We cannot tell them that we let a Senate rule stand in the way of our most fundamental freedom. Instead, let us tell them that we stood together as people of conscience and courage.
Let us tell them we acted with the urgency that this moment demands.
And let us tell them we secured the freedom to vote, that we ensured free and fair elections, and we safeguarded our democracy for them and their children.