By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met on Tuesday with Democratic Texas lawmakers who left the state and told them their “courageous stand” to derail Republican efforts to enact voting restrictions was like efforts throughout U.S. history of civil rights activists and suffragettes. “Defending the right of the […]
Harris tells Texas Democrats they are like suffragettes, civil rights leaders
By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met on Tuesday with Democratic Texas lawmakers who left the state and told them their “courageous stand” to derail Republican efforts to enact voting restrictions was like efforts throughout U.S. history of civil rights activists and suffragettes.
“Defending the right of the American people to vote is as American as apple pie,” she said to more than 50 Democratic lawmakers who left Texas a day earlier to deny the state legislature the quorum required to approve Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s special session agenda.
Harris met the Texas lawmakers for nearly an hour in a conference room at the headquarters of the American Federation of Teachers, a Democratic-aligned labor union. The Texas lawmakers defied calls for their arrest and said they would stay in Washington to push for federal voting reform.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden also spoke on voting rights in Philadelphia, calling it a “national imperative” to pass sweeping voting rights legislation that has stalled in Congress. Biden did not outline a path to overcome Republican opposition.
Civil rights groups say Republican-led efforts to enact restrictions in several states would make it harder to vote for many Black and Hispanic citizens, traditional supporters of Democrats. The state restrictions followed former President Donald Trump’s false claim that voting fraud was widespread in the 2020 election that he lost to Biden, a Democrat.
Earlier, Harris told Reuters in an interview that her work to fight voting restrictions adopts a multi-pronged approach focused on the need to register voters, educate them about voting rights and protect them. She said she was putting together a coalition including the private sector, but did not name any specific companies who had joined.
Neither Harris nor Biden mentioned a step that others have recommended: changing Senate rules to weaken the legislative filibuster that has allowed Republicans to stall the voting rights measure and other Democratic priorities.
Last month, Biden appointed Harris to lead his administration’s fight against voting restrictions. Over 15 U.S. states have enacted at least 22 laws this year making it more difficult for Americans to vote, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice.
The Democratic National Committee plans to spend $25 million on voter registration, outreach and protections ahead of the 2022 midterm election.
Asked if the amount was too little, Harris said “let’s do $25 million at a time” and said Democrats will deploy “every form of resource” into the issue.
Harris said she has convened meetings with leaders in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and South Carolina, and will also host leaders representing Americans with disabilities – a group likely to suffer from voting restrictions.
Biden and Harris outpolled Trump by 7 million votes nationwide but won by narrow margins in several so-called “swing” states that ensured their victory in the electoral college. Many Democrats worry that voting restrictions could swing those states Republican in the next presidential race.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling also weakened a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This could make it much harder for Democrats to prevail in lawsuits against states, such as Georgia, that passed voting restrictions.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Will Dunham and David Gregorio)