Biden addresses voting rights in sermon honoring MLK

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WILMINGTON, Del. (TBEN) — President Joe Biden will mark the 94th birthday of the late Martin Luther King Jr. celebrate with a sermon Sunday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that aims to celebrate the legacy of the civil rights leader while reviving the Biden administration’s call for sweeping voting rights legislation.

Biden’s failure to secure approval of 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 difficult now that Republicans control the House.

Prior to Biden’s visit to the church where King once preached, White House officials said he was determined to advocate for meaningful action on voting rights.

“The president will speak on a number of issues in 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 recognizing the role the civil rights movement and Dr. King have played in where we are today in our country’s history.”

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The Democrats’ voting rights bill, named after John Lewis, the late Georgia civil rights leader and congressman, contained provisions that would have made Election Day a national holiday, ensured access to early voting and mail-in ballots, and enabled the Justice Department to suggested intervening in states with a history of voter interference, among other changes.

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 — along with Democratic colleagues refused to change Senate rules to create a Republican filibuster. vanquish. Sinema announced last month that she would change her party affiliation, but she continues to consult 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 battleground state Democrats who won re-election in 2022, distanced himself from Biden during the campaign as the president’s approval rating lagged and inflation soared.

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But as Biden begins to turn his attention to an expected re-election in 2024, Georgia will get much of his attention.

In 2020, Biden managed to win Georgia as well as hard-fought Michigan and Pennsylvania, where black votes were a disproportionate portion of the Democratic electorate. It will be vital to Biden’s 2024 hopes of getting black voters in those states.

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

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

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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 how the president handled classified documents after leaving the vice presidency in 2017. House revealed on Saturday that additional classified documents were found at Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.

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

King, who was killed in 1968 after fomenting 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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The Bharat Express News writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.