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VP Harris: ‘We will not let the filibuster stand in our way’ in protecting voting rights, abortion access

Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday said she and President Biden “will not let the filibuster stand in our way” on protecting abortion access and voting rights, while urging voters to cast ballots in November’s midterm elections to protect “our most essential rights and freedoms.”

Harris, speaking at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Monday, said leaders of the organization have “fought hard to move our nation forward.” 

“And yet we must recognize that there are those who are fighting to drag us backward,” Harris said. “Extremist so-called leaders who are fighting to drag us backward. Extremist so-called leaders who are attempting to undermine our democracy and assault our most fundamental freedoms.”

The freedoms Harris listed included “the freedom to be safe from gun violence, the freedom to make decisions about our own bodies and the freedom to vote.”

BIDEN WARNS OF NATIONWIDE ABORTION BAN IF REPUBLICANS TAKE MAJORITY OF CONGRESS: ‘THE CHOICE IS CLEAR’

The vice president’s comments came just weeks after the Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue of abortion back to the states after nearly 50 years.

“These so-called leaders, so-called claim that… we just think this is a decision that should be made by the folks in the states — people in the states can vote on this, right, but, at this moment, many of those same so-called leaders are the same ones who are passing laws to restrict the ability for people to vote,” Harris said.

“They’re passing laws, the same people, laws that ban drop boxes and restrict early voting, laws that make it illegal to give people food and water for waiting in line to vote — un-democratic laws, un-American laws,” Harris continued, noting that the same states “attacking the freedom to vote” are “attacking women’s freedoms over their own bodies.”

Harris, shifting to the midterms, stressed the importance of voting, stressing that “we need people who will defend our rights up and down the ballot.” 

“From district attorneys to state attorneys general, from local sheriffs to governors,” she said. “And we need two more votes in the United States Senate.” 

Pro-choice protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, June 24, 2022.

“We will not — and the president has been clear — we will not let the filibuster stand in our way of our most essential rights and freedoms,” Harris said.

The filibuster is a threshold of 60 votes in the Senate that’s necessary before a piece of legislation is given an up or down vote.

If Democrats wanted to establish a new filibuster precedent, they could do so with 51 votes — all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus, plus Harris breaking the tie.

Last month, after the Supreme Court’s ruling, President Biden called on Congress to codify protections under Roe v. Wade into federal law.

Biden, at the time, announced that he supports Congress ending the filibuster to pass that legislation to protect a national right to abortion.

Demonstrators hold up banners during the march marking the 58th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights — we should require an exception to the filibuster for this action,” Biden said.

In January, Biden endorsed changes to the Senate filibuster in order to push through federal voting rights legislation.

House Democrats, in August 2021, passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act with all Republicans voting no and all present Democrats voting yes.

BIDEN TO ENDORSE CHANGING SENATE FILIBUSTER RULES TO PASS VOTING CHANGES

The Lewis bill outlines a new, expanded formula that the Department of Justice can use to identify discriminatory voting patterns in states and local jurisdictions. Those entities would then need to get DOJ approval before making further changes to elections. The bill also includes a provision designed to counter the summer’s Supreme Court ruling that made it harder to challenge potentially discriminatory voting changes.

First lady Jill Biden listens as President Biden talks to reporters before boarding Marine One at the White House, June 17, 2022.

The House version of the companion bill, the “For the People Act” stalled in the Senate amid Republican opposition.

Meanwhile, Harris on Monday stressed that “much” has been accomplished, but said “we still have much to do to move our nation forward.”

“President Biden and I ask for you to do what you’ve always done: Continue to build coalitions of Americans of all ages and races and backgrounds. Continue to do so with the knowledge that we have so much more in common than what separates us,” Harris said, urging NAACP members to continue to “activate and organize communities in every state, continue to use your power to share, to fight for our shared vision of America.”

She added: “We’re counting on you all because today we have been called to create a more fair, more equal and more just America. So today, let us recommit to answering the call.”

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