Biden Assigns Kamala Harris Another Difficult Role: Protecting Voting Rights

WASHINGTON — President Biden mentioned on Tuesday that he had directed Vice President Kamala Harris to guide Democrats in a sweeping legislative effort to guard voting rights, a problem that’s essential to his legacy however one which faces more and more daunting odds in a divided Senate.

“Today, I’m asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts, and lead them, among her many other responsibilities,” Mr. Biden mentioned throughout a visit to Tulsa, Okla. “With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.”

The president was in Oklahoma to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa bloodbath, when a white mob destroyed a vibrant Black enterprise district and killed as many as 300 individuals. The bloodbath was one of many worst outbreaks of racist violence in American historical past, and it has gone largely ignored in historical past books.

Mr. Biden advised the group that he noticed the safety of voting rights as one of the vital basic — and most endangered — pathways to make sure racial fairness.

But his choice to put in Ms. Harris because the chief of an effort to beat again payments in states nationwide which are making an attempt to tighten voting guidelines — “a truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, ” Mr. Biden advised the group — added one other politically thorny downside to the vice chairman’s coverage portfolio.

Ms. Harris has already been tasked with main the administration’s efforts to discourage migration to the southwestern border by working to enhance circumstances within the Northern Triangle nations of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The vice chairman — who will go to Mexico and Guatemala subsequent week — and her workers have labored to reframe expectations round her function, stressing that she is going to look at the basis causes of migration, not single-handedly cease the movement of migrants to the United States.

Her Northern Triangle work comes along with a number of different engagements, together with however not restricted to: promoting the “American Rescue Plan,” advocating Mr. Biden’s infrastructure package deal, representing ladies within the work power, highlighting the Black maternal mortality charge, aiding small companies, assessing water coverage, selling racial fairness, combating vaccine hesitancy, and combating for a policing overhaul.

For her half, Ms. Harris embraced the task in a press release issued shortly after Mr. Biden’s announcement in Tulsa.

“In the days and weeks ahead, I will engage the American people, and I will work with voting rights organizations, community organizations, and the private sector to help strengthen and uplift efforts on voting rights nationwide,” the vice chairman mentioned. “And we will also work with members of Congress to help advance these bills.”

Mr. Biden has targeted on points associated to voting rights for a lot of his profession, however the Senate now bears little resemblance to the deal-making chamber he remembers. He faces particularly wrenching choices relating to the voting rights laws he has requested Ms. Harris to assist shepherd by Congress.

Known because the “For the People Act,” the invoice is the professed No. 1 precedence of Democrats this yr. It would overhaul the nation’s elections system, rein in marketing campaign donations and restrict partisan gerrymandering. But after passing the House, it hit a wall of Republican opposition within the Senate.

One choice for Democrats can be to ram the invoice by on a partisan vote by additional rolling again one of many foundations of Senate custom: the filibuster. But at the very least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, stays against the concept, doubtlessly scuttling it.

In Tulsa, Mr. Biden appeared to specific open frustration on the odds going through the invoice — and on the Democratic lawmakers who might stand in the way in which of its success.

“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done’?” the president mentioned. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends,” a possible swipe at Mr. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, one other reasonable Democrat.