President Joe Biden has tapped Vice President Kamala Harris with the two biggest fights in his administration, immigration and now voting rights.
Biden announced Harris will take the lead days before she’s slated to travel to Guatemala and Mexico to discuss curbing migration to the United States with their leaders. The dual-edged sword puts Harris in a tough spot of dealing with a major foreign issue and a major domestic one, but Biden believes Harris is up to the challenge.
“The president sees the vice president as an important partner and somebody who can work to take on challenging and hard initiatives. That’s the role of the modern-day vice president,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday.
Psaski added that Harris asked to take the lead on voting rights calling it an issue Harris is “personally committed to and passionate about.”
Harris, a Black woman, knows how GOP voting restrictions in the past have hurt Black Americans and is not surprised Republicans have reverted back to suppressing the Black vote after former President Donald Trump was defeated last fall.
Since Trump’s defeat, more than 100 bills restricting voting have been introduced. Florida and Georgia have passed bills restricting mail-in and absentee voting, making it illegal to pass out food and water in voting lines and adding stiff identification requirements. Texas Republicans have also tried to pass their own voting restrictions bill but state Democrats walked out of the session, thwarting the effort. Texas Republicans will keep trying to pass the bill.
According to The Hill progressives and voting rights advocates view Harris taking the lead as a sight the White House is taking the issue seriously.
“She’s the right person and the right level of the administration given how much of a priority this is and how urgent these problems are,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice told the Hill.
This month is a crucial one as the drive to pass H.R. 1, also known as the For the People Act of 2021. Harris’ office has not announced her plans, but so far Harris has been involved in talks with NAACP President Derrick Johnson and other voting rights groups.
Because Republicans have refused to vote for the bill as a group, the only path forward would require all 50 Democrats and Harris, who serves as the tie-breaking vote in an evenly divided Senate, to support not only the substance of the bill, but changing the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to approve major legislation, allowing it to pass with a simple majority instead.
Democrats Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, (D-AZ) have been adamant in their opposition to end the filibuster.