Joining the president in Atlanta for a speech on voting rights, Vice President Kamala Harris was more than an opening act. While brief, the vice president’s remarks set a clear tone for the afternoon.
Harris’ remarks, couched in the civil rights movement’s legacy, push back on the idea that people can wait for a better time to pass voting rights legislation. She also reminded those listening that it has been almost ten years since the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder.
Harris also challenged complacency and willingness to accept what is happening in state legislatures across the country as “normal.” In under ten minutes, she conveyed the seriousness of the moment while recognizing the chorus of voices who have been speaking up about the anti-voting rights laws passed in direct response to Trump’s big lie.
Good afternoon, Atlanta! Good afternoon. Jillian, thank you for that beautiful introduction and for your leadership. I can’t wait to see you what you do next. Thank you.
So 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. 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, on the eve of the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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 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. There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines.
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 that 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. 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 Congress the power to pass legislation. And nowhere, nowhere does the constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation. 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 to them and their children.
And now my fellow Americans it is my honor to introduce a leader who is unwavering in his commitment to defend our democracy and ensure the ballot prevails, the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
Watch the full remarks below: