Biden to address voting rights in sermon celebrating MLK

Biden to address voting rights in sermon celebrating MLK

Biden to address voting rights in sermon celebrating MLK

President Joe Biden is expected to mark what would have been the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday with a sermon Sunday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that aims to celebrate the civil rights leader’s legacy while rekindling the Biden administration’s call for a hardline vote. rights legislation.

Biden’s failure to push through a measure that would have strengthened voting rights protections, a central campaign pledge, is one of his biggest disappointments of his first two years in office. The task is even more daunting now that Republicans control the House.

Ahead of Biden’s visit to the church where King once preached, White House officials said he was committed to advocating for meaningful action on voting rights.

“The president will speak to a number of issues at the church, including how important it is that we have access to our democracy,” said senior adviser Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Bottoms, who served as mayor of Atlanta from 2018 to 2022, said “you can’t come to Atlanta without acknowledging the role that the civil rights movement and Dr. King have played where we are in the history of our country”.

The Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill, named after John Lewis, the late civil rights leader and congressman from Georgia, included provisions that would have made Election Day a national holiday, ensured the access to early voting and mail-in ballots and allowing the Department of Justice to intervene in states with a history of election interference, among other changes.

The legislation collapsed last year when two senators – Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, then a Democrat and now an independent – ​​refused to join fellow Democrats in changing the rules of the Senate in order to overcome a Republican buccaneer. Sinema announced last month that she was switching party affiliations, but she continues to caucus with Democrats.

Biden was invited to Ebenezer, where King served as co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968, by Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor. Warnock, like many Democrats in battleground states who won reelection in 2022, kept his distance during the campaign with Biden as the president’s approval rating lagged and the rate of inflation rose.

But with Biden starting to turn his attention to a re-election effort slated for 2024, Georgia will get his full attention.

In 2020, Biden managed to win Georgia as well as tightly contested Michigan and Pennsylvania, where black votes made up a disproportionate share of the Democratic electorate. Turning black voters into those states will be critical to Biden’s 2024 hopes.

The White House has tried to promote Biden’s agenda in minority communities. The White House cited efforts to encourage states to consider equity for public works projects when spending money from the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The administration has also moved to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, removing a policy widely seen as racist.

The administration also highlights Biden’s work to diversify the federal court system, including his appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the confirmation of 11 black female judges to appeals courts. federal courts – more than those installed in those mighty courts under all previous presidents combined.

The visit to Ebenezer also comes at a delicate time for Biden after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the president’s handling of classified documents after stepping down from the vice presidency in 2017. The White House revealed on Saturday that more of the classified documents were found at Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.

In Atlanta, Biden will be the first sitting president to speak at a Sunday service at Ebenezer, Bottoms said.

King, who was assassinated in 1968 after fueling the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, would have celebrated his 94th birthday on Sunday. Members of King’s family are expected to be present for Biden’s visit.

The president plans to be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual King’s Day breakfast.

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Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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