Jan 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Voting rights leaders to snub Biden speech

Black Voters Matter and other voting rights groups outside of the White House last year. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A coalition of Georgia voting and civil rights groups announced Monday they're going to skip President Biden's speech highlighting the issue on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Driving the news: "We’re beyond speeches. We’re beyond events," LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said during a Zoom meeting attended by reporters. "What we are demanding is federal legislation."

  • Brown has attended meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, including as recently as December, to discuss the urgency in passing federal voting rights legislation, among other issues.
  • The other leaders planning to skip the speech include the former president of the Georgia NAACP, as well as political directors from the New Georgia Project, the Atlantic Labor Council, the Asian American Advocacy Fund and the Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
  • A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Why it matters: Their absence is a statement in and of itself. And even if the president gives a full-throated endorsement to eliminating the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation — that still won’t allay their concerns.

  • "I don't think we're confident at all" in Biden's ability to deliver on this, said Kendra Cotton, chief operating officer for the New Georgia Project.
  • The nonpartisan group works to register voters with a focus on people of color and young people.
  • "For me and for the New Georgia Project, it’s our lack of confidence in this administration and what they’re going to be able to do that has sparked the action that we’re taking," Cotton added.

What they're saying: Cliff Albright, executive director and the other co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said: "I have confidence in our movement. I have confidence in our people and our communities."

  • "What we're saying is, we don't need another speech,” he added.
  • Phi Nguyen, the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta, said: “We need legislation that will ensure that our democracy accurately reflects the diversity of this state and this country.”

The state of play: Biden and Harris are traveling to Georgia to deliver major speeches on voting rights.

  • The president is expected to call on senators to allow for a carve-out to the filibuster to pass federal legislation.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised a vote on Senate rules changes to the filibuster for voting rights by MLK Jr. Day — Jan. 17.
  • And several top Democrats, including Biden, used their speeches on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot anniversary to call for expanding voting rights.

But, but, but: Activists and organizers noted during the video call how the president was able to prioritize and do whatever it took to pass his massive infrastructure bill into law.

  • They want to see him commit to doing the same on voting rights.
  • "Whatever he needs to do to get it done — he needs to get done," Brown said. "The Senate works in a particular type of way, and if there’s anyone who knows how to work with the Senate, well, that’s why we voted for him."
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