Biden assigns Harris another difficult role: protecting voting rights

US President Joe Biden, US Vice President Kamala Harris and US Secretary of Defence Llyod Austin arrive for a wreath-laying ceremony during the National Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, US May 31, 2021. REUTERS
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he had directed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead Democrats in a sweeping legislative effort to protect voting rights, an issue that is critical to his legacy but one that faces increasingly 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,” Biden said during a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma. “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 massacre, when a white mob destroyed a vibrant Black business district and killed as many as 300 people. The massacre was one of the worst outbreaks of racist violence in American history.

Biden told the crowd that he saw the protection of voting rights as one of the most fundamental — and most endangered — pathways to ensure racial equity.

But his decision to install Harris as the leader of an effort to beat back bills in states nationwide that are trying to tighten voting rules — “a truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, ” Biden told the crowd — added another politically thorny problem to the vice president’s policy portfolio.

Harris has already been tasked with leading the administration’s efforts to deter migration to the southwestern border by working to improve conditions in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

That work comes in addition to a host of other engagements, including but not limited to: selling the “American Rescue Plan,” advocating Biden’s infrastructure package, representing women in the workforce, highlighting the Black maternal mortality rate, assisting small businesses, assessing water policy, promoting racial equity, combating vaccine hesitancy, and fighting for a policing overhaul.

“In the days and weeks ahead, I will engage the American people, and I will work with voting rights organisations, community organisations, and the private sector to help strengthen and uplift efforts on voting rights nationwide,” the vice president said in a statement issued shortly after Biden’s announcement. “And we will also work with members of Congress to help advance these bills.”


© 2021 New York Times News Service