Washington — President Biden denounced efforts by lawmakers in Republican-led states to impose new restrictions on voting, decrying their efforts as a "21st century Jim Crow assault" and urging Congress to pass federal laws to protect voting access.
On Tuesday, in a speech on voting rights from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the president focused much of his ire at Republicans in Texas, accusing them of wanting to "intimidate" voters — of making them drive further and wait longer to vote. His address came as Democrats in the Texas legislature, denying state House Republicans a quorum and thereby stopping a vote on the state's election law bill.
"They want to make it so hard and inconvenient that they hope people don't vote at all," Mr. Biden said, adding, "This year alone, 17 states have enacted — not just proposed, but enacted — 28 new laws to make it harder for Americans to vote," the president said.
"The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real," the president said. "It's unrelenting. We're going to challenge it vigorously."
The president framed the fight for voting rights as "the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War."
"The confederates back then never breached the Capitol, as insurrectionists did on," he said. "I'm not saying this to alarm you. I'm saying this because you should be alarmed."
And he went on to urge Congress, in perhaps his strongest language yet, to pass legislation to protect voting rights.
"We must pass the For the People Act," he said of the sweeping voting rights legislation passed by the House butby Republicans in the Senate. "It's a national imperative." The bill has no Senate Republican support and would need 10 Republican votes to pass.
"We must also fight for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to restore and expand voting protections and prevent voter suppression," the president said. This bill, which has not yet been introduced, has the support of one Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Democrats in Congress are also working on legislation that would restore protections of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
The White House has been facing increasing pressure from voting rights groups and congressional Democrats to more push back against efforts in GOP-led states to enact more restrictive voting laws.
Spurred by former President Trump's unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was rife with fraud, GOP-led states like Florida and Georgia have enacted new laws tightening their elections procedures, while others, like Texas, are debating new restrictions. Republicans in Texas are aiming to ban drive-thru voting, although early voting hours could expand in some counties. (.)
While the president hasto lead his administration's work to protect voting rights, the White House says Mr. Biden believes he can use the bully pulpit to push for voting rights legislation and use executive powers to protect the right to vote.
A Supreme Court decision this monthand placing new limits on another provision of the Voting Rights Act has reignited calls from activists for Congress to act and the president to redouble his fight to protect access to the ballot box.