Newswire: Biden gets applause for Voting Rights Speech and call to remove flibuster, but was it all too late?

President Biden speaking at Atlanta University

By Hazel Trice Edney

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – President Joseph Biden is winning wide applause among the national civil rights community for his Atlanta speech last week finally pushing the Senate to move on voting rights and for the controversial filibuster to be removed.

But most also say there must now be action by the Biden Administration and the Senate to pass protection for the Voting Rights Act. “I believe President Biden set the right tone on voting rights today, and I thank him for paying homage to the life’s work of John R. Lewis who advised us that, ‘Sometimes you have to not just dream about what could be—you get out and push, and you pull, and you preach. And you create a climate and environment to get those in high places, to get men and women of goodwill in power to act,’” said House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn in a statement on President Biden’s speech in Atlanta on voting rights. Clyburn is the highest-ranking Black member of Congress.

Civil rights leaders, many of whom attended the Biden speech, also praised the speech but said Biden hasn’t done nearly enough to get the voting rights bills passed that would essentially override new laws in states across the nation that aim to diminish voting rights.

“So far, Republican legislators in 19 states have passed 34 bills that restrict access to voting for young, Black, Hispanic, Asian, disabled, and elderly Americans. These cynical bills are aimed at making it more difficult to vote – deleting voter registrations, restricting access to the ballot box, and limiting access to vote by mail. These bills are rooted in partisanship and racism, and we cannot sit idly and watch as local, state, and frankly, U.S. Senators strip us of our most sacred right,” wrote National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial. “All Senators of all parties have a duty to vote for legislation that will protect the right to vote for all Americans. They must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and Freedom to Vote Act. And as the President said, if it takes amending the Senate rules to limit the weaponization of filibuster to do it, so be it.”

The two laws before the Senate, both of which have broad public support, are key. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would make any voting rule illegal if it discriminates on the basis of race, language or ethnicity. It would also empower voters’ to challenge discriminatory laws, according to PublicDemocracyAmerica.org. Secondly, the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) “would solidify comprehensive voter protections, including a minimum of 15 days for early voting, mail-in ballots, and making Election Day a national holiday. The bill would set up national standards for voter identification. The bill would also establish protections for election officials against intimidation and partisan interference. To further ensure election integrity, the Freedom to Vote Act would require states to use voting systems with a verifiable paper trail and establish national standards for voter identification,” according to PublicDemocracyAmerica.org.

But even more than the two voting rights bills, civil rights advocates want to end the filibuster. In a nutshell, a filibuster is a political strategy in which one or more members of Congress speak at length on a proposed legislation for the sole purpose of delaying a vote. The filibuster was commonly used during the civil rights movement to stop civil rights legislation from moving forward.

Speaking at the Atlanta University Center Consortium with HBCU students behind him, Biden called for Senators to back the end to the filibuster as is. “I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote,” Biden said. “Let the majority prevail,” he said to applause. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this,” he said to repeated applause. “The filibuster has been weaponized and abused,” he said.

Two Democratic Senators, Joe Mansion of West Virginia and Sinema of Arizona have stated that although they support voting rights, they are opposed to changing the Senate filibuster rules to make passage of these critical bills posuble.

Morial concluded, “We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for today’s speech. But now we all have a responsibility to keep up the pressure on all Senators to preserve and protect the right to vote by immediately passing voting rights legislation.”

Newswire: Black women leaders declare ‘State of Emergency’ for vote on Kristen Clarke’s nomination for DOJ Civil Rights position

Kristen Clarke

By Hazel Trice Edney

 (TriceEdneyWire.com) – A coalition of organizations led by some of the most powerful Black women in America has called for the immediate vote on the confirmation of civil rights lawyer Kristen Clarke, President Joseph Biden’s nominee for the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights. Nominated five months ago, Clarke, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia University Law School, was interviewed during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing April 14. The Committee finally voted 11-11 along party lines May 13. This means the full Senate will now determine whether to vote her nomination up or down. Black leaders across the nation fear the Committee could drag out the confirmation debate into the summer months as crucial civil rights issues lay dormant.  Republicans have tried to argue that her past views have been too radical, including on police reform. Democrats say she is just what America needs.  Clarke’s philosophy on civil rights is best expressed through her own words. “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on,” she said in her written testimony before the Judiciary Committee. “I’ve tried to do just that at every step of my career, from the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to the Civil Rights Bureau in the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where I was the state’s top civil rights enforcement officer. And since 2015, I’ve led the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the nation’s leading civil rights legal organizations.” Given the crucial issues being dealt with by America’s civil rights community, including voting rights, police brutality and police killings of Black people, leaders say that Clarke’s background of fighting for justice on those issues alongside other civil rights leaders makes her a perfect fit to lead the division.  “In the time that we’re in, we know that she is more than up to the task. And we want to express the reasons that we believe she is up to the task and an excellent choice and we want to make sure that she is also treated fairly,” said Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “History has shown us that we have to always speak up; especially when it comes to women of color who are put up for these positions to serve and she has been a servant leader all of her life.” In that regard, Campbell partnered with Johnnetta Betsch Cole, national chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women, to brief Black reporters by Zoom on the efforts of Black women’s organizations to push Clarke’s nomination through. That May 7 meeting was followed by a Call to Action, livestreamed across multiple media platforms May 11. “Today in our country, hatred and bigotry are on the rise. White supremacy is emboldened to carry out an insurrection in the Capitol of the United States of America. And there’s a wave of voter suppression bills being passed that look like and smell like – because they are like – old Jim Crow laws,” Cole told the reporters. “For such a time as this …so many more sister presidents are committed to smashing another glass ceiling.” Karen Boykin-Towns, NAACP board vice chair, stressed the urgency of the issues now faced by the civil rights community. “This nation needs its top civil rights law enforcement officer, and we need her now. Police violence continues to take the lives of Black Americans; We see a rise in hate crimes against the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders); domestic terrorism rooted in White supremacy represents our greatest internal threat. And on top of everything, we are still struggling with devastating racial impact of a pandemic that is now going into a second year. The work of a civil rights division has never been more critical and who leads it matters greatly,” Boykin-Towns said. “Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been over a hundred police killings of Black people. We’re in a state of emergency. And so, her confirmation now and not to linger into the summer is so imperative.” Boykin-Towns said NAACP local leaders are working individually as well as collectively and putting a “full court press” on the confirmation. The coalition was also joined by Jotaka Eaddy, chief organizer of the Win with Black Women Collective;  Virginia W. Harris, president, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., and Beverly Smith, national president/CEO for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Clarke is no stranger to the nation. She is often seen among national civil rights leaders during press conferences and is often called upon by national media to speak on issues. “Her dedication to the pursuit of justice and her track record are invaluable,” said Harris.