Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday sharply criticized Republicans for blocking a bill that would set minimum standards for elections and pledged that Democrats would not end their fight to increase access to voting.
“We must defend and strengthen the right that unlocks all other rights — the right to vote,” Harris said as she stood by the 30-foot granite statue of the Reverend Martin Luther King, a murdered African American who led nonviolent movements. The civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Speaking at the memorial’s 10th anniversary ceremony, Harris touted two bills that she claims will provide the widest expansion of voting rights since the 1960s. She said such a law is needed to counter Republican efforts at the state level to limit the victories of black activists.
On Wednesday, Republicans blocked a measure to debate legislation that would declare election day a public holiday, required additional disclosure on fundraising and campaign spending, and opened the way for challenging new voting laws in court.
The Senate Freedom to Vote Act was a scaled-down version of broader bills passed by House Democrats earlier this year. His co-sponsor was Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key moderate man who included some provisions he hoped would lead to victory over some Republicans.
But GOP lawmakers haven’t crossed the aisle. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the law was only a compromise between Democrats and called it an attempt to “micromanage” state and local elections.
Republicans broke the law, and he failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to end debate before a vote in the hall. This marks the third time that Republicans have blocked such a law in the Senate this year.
The Republican effort comes as former President Trump continues to promote his full of deceitful campaigns that the 2020 election was stolen and as more than a dozen Republican-controlled states have passed laws restricting voting access.
Democrats tried to pass a voting law following a 2013 Supreme Court decision that overturned provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required certain jurisdictions to obtain Department of Justice or federal court approval before changing practices that could affect voting rights.
The regulation, in force several decades ago, was intended to regulate jurisdictions in which African Americans could not vote.
At the memorial, Harris was joined by President Biden, who echoed his vice president’s call for a vote bill, saying, “We must keep fighting and push for it.”
A memorial near the National Mall depicts King emerging from a cliff. It was created by Chinese artist Lei Yixing, inspired by King’s “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.