One bill introduced by Democrats, the Freedom to Vote Act, would, among other provisions, take the teeth out of state-led efforts to restrict mail-in or absentee voting, make Election Day a holiday, and stop state legislators from redrawing districts in a way that advocates say denies representation to minority voters. Another, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would restore crucial anti-discrimination components of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped away by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, acknowledged that expectations around the speech were high: “He wouldn’t be going to Georgia tomorrow if he wasn’t ready and prepared to elevate this issue and continue to fight for it,” she told reporters on Monday.
But the president’s advisers have been far less specific about what solutions he might offer, and a bipartisan path forward is all but impossible. Mr. Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate and sees himself as a consensus builder, has faced resistance from Republicans on voting rights legislation.
Last week, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said Republicans could have until Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to drop their opposition to debate and votes on the issue, or face the prospect of overhauling filibuster rules.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, promised a scorched-earth response should Democrats go that route: “Since Senator Schumer is hellbent on trying to break the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action would have immediate consequences,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement on Monday.
Republicans have argued that Democrats are using the voting rights legislation to try to gain partisan advantage by seeking to impose their preferred rules on states that have long regulated their own elections. But activists say that critique ignores glaring examples of voter suppression. Voting rights groups in Georgia have already filed a federal lawsuit that accuses legislators of redrawing a congressional district to benefit Republican candidates and deny representation to Black voters.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden will lean on the power of symbolism when he travels to Georgia. He and Ms. Harris will visit the crypt of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King. They will visit the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both Dr. King and Mr. Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights icon for whom the legislation is named, were eulogized. Senator Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black senator and a Democrat who is seeking a full term this year after a runoff victory, is a senior pastor there.
(With inputs from NYTimes)
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