ATLANTA — After visiting two historical sites in Atlanta, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made their way to the Atlanta University Center Consortium on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College
to speak about voting legislation. Both Harris and Biden called the city the “cradle of the Civil Rights Moment" as they pushed for the passing of The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both aimed at passing a broad range of voting protections and policies.
Biden and Harris also took jabs at Georgia’s controversial voting law that passed last year. The law limits the number of absentee ballot drop boxes, disallows volunteers from giving away food and drink to voters waiting in lines, and requires an ID number to apply for an absentee ballot. It also allows election officials to begin scanning verified ballots on the third Monday before Election Day, among other items.
"It makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters, food or water while they wait in line to vote. What in the hell -- heck -- are we talking about," Biden said as the crowd laughed.
The vice president said “anti-voting laws” are making it difficult for Americans to vote.
“If we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come,” Harris said.
Both emphasized The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would make America a fairer place to vote. Biden even went a step further suggesting lawmakers should change the filibuster rules if it would help pass the two pieces of proposed legislation. They said Republicans are blocking them from debate and votes.
“I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave, that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bill, to debate them, vote, let the majority prevail,” he said. “ And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules and get rid of the filibuster for this.”
Biden said the filibuster is abused and weaponized at times. He added it was used more than 100 times last year.
The president has been criticized by some in his own party for the Senate's inaction. However, he declared where he stands on the issue and emphasized that he was "tired of being quiet."
“Today, I’m making it clear,” he said. “Protect our democracy. I support changing the Senate rules whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of Senators from blocking action on voting rights.”
He said he’s making the announcement after careful consideration.
President Biden, VP Harris visit Atlanta
“The next few days when these bills come to a vote will mark a turning point in this nation’s history,” Biden said. “The issue is, will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows? Justice over injustice? I know where I stand," he said. "I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies – foreign and yes, domestic.”
The two bills on voting legislation are currently stalled, and Biden hopes a change in Senate rules could at least free them for votes.
Before the stop to the AUC, Biden and Harris visited Ebenezer Baptist Church and the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.