Biden to Travel to Philadelphia to Speak on Voting Rights

President Biden used the birthplace of American democracy to offer an evisceration of the lie, spread by his predecessor, Donald J. Trum...


President Biden used the birthplace of American democracy to offer an evisceration of the lie, spread by his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.

“No other election has ever been held under such scrutiny, such high standards,” Mr. Biden said in Philadelphia. “The big lie is just that: A big lie.”

Mr. Biden used the powerful backdrop to attack Mr. Trump’s conspiracy theory as a “darker and more sinister” underbelly of American politics, and warned that “bullies and merchants of fear” have posed an existential threat to American democracy.

“If you lose, you accept the results,” Mr. Biden said, in the most direct admonishment of Mr. Trump and the events of Jan. 6 that he has issued as president. “You don’t call facts fake and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy. That’s not statesmanship. That’s not statesmanship. That’s selfishness. That’s not democracy, it’s the denial of the right to vote.”

At the same time, Mr. Biden was in Philadelphia to reassure Democrats who say he has not done enough to deliver on a promise to make voting rights a central theme of his presidency. His speech came as Democrats see a worrying increase in efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to restrict voting, along with court rulings that would make it harder to fight back against encroachments on voting rights. A Supreme Court ruling this month weakened the one enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act that remained after the court invalidated its major provision in 2013. Mr. Biden said a year ago that strengthening the act would be one of his first priorities upon taking office.

“The court’s decision, as harmful as it is, does not limit the Congress’s ability to repair the damage done,” Mr. Biden said. “As soon as Congress passes the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I will sign it and let the whole world see it,” he added, referring to two Democratic bills seeking to expand voting rights that stalled in Congress.

In an interview, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended Mr. Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, said that he and several other civil rights leaders pushed Mr. Biden to encourage Democrats to unite in an effort to roll back the filibuster, which would allow both bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority.

“We encouraged him to make a real appeal to all of the Democrats to get in line,” Mr. Sharpton said, recalling a meeting he and several other civil rights leaders had at the White House with Mr. Biden last week. “I think he heard us, but I don’t know.”

Mr. Biden did not broach the topic in his speech on Tuesday, but instead assailed the Republican efforts as “raw and sustained election subversion” and a denial “of the will of the people.”

“The power must always be with the people,” Mr. Biden said, his voice rising. “Have you no shame?”

Mr. Biden’s speech came as a group of Democrats in the Texas Legislature fled their state on Monday and traveled to Washington to prevent State House Republicans from attaining a quorum, a temporary way to delay state lawmakers from taking up restrictive voting measures proposed there.

Both measures would ban 24-hour voting and drive-through voting; prohibit election officials from proactively sending out absentee ballot applications to voters who have not requested them; add new voter identification requirements for voting by mail; limit third-party ballot collection; increase the criminal penalties for election workers who run afoul of regulations; limit what assistance can be provided to voters; and greatly expand the authority and autonomy of partisan poll watchers.

Representative James Talarico, the youngest member of the Texas State Legislature at 32 years old, said the group of Democrats had come to Washington, in part, to pressure Mr. Biden to do more.

“I’m incredibly proud not only as a Democrat but also an American of what President Biden has accomplished in his first few months in office,” Mr. Talarico said. “But protecting our democracy should’ve been at the very top of the list, because without it none of these issues matter.”

The restrictions mirror key provisions of a restrictive law passed in Georgia earlier this year, which went even further to assert Republican control over the State Election Board and empower the G.O.P. to suspend county election officials. In June, the Department of Justice sued Georgia over the law, the first significant move of the Biden administration to challenge voter restrictions at the state level.

Activists say Mr. Biden’s speech on Thursday would show them just how willing he is to spend political capital on the issue at a time when his other agenda items, including an infrastructure package, are subject to delicate negotiations in Congress.

“I think people are looking for his actions to match his rhetoric on this,” Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster group Fix Our Senate, said in an interview. “No amount of turnout operations or D.O.J. actions can make up for failure to pass legislation.”

Outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, 47 Texas Democratic state representatives appealed for passage of the For the People Act, which would aims to rein in state restrictions on voting. Back in Austin, Republicans vented their anger and the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, vowed to call “special session after special session after special session” until an election bill is passed.

From the podium in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden sought to emphasize that his administration would be doing more to combat state-level efforts, calling the current landscape “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden to Travel to Philadelphia to Speak on Voting Rights
Biden to Travel to Philadelphia to Speak on Voting Rights
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