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tv   Pres. Biden Delivers Remarks on Voting Rights in Georgia  CSPAN  January 12, 2022 6:18am-7:00am EST

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tensions between the u.s. and russia over ukraine in the future of nato. watch "washington journal" live at seven a.m. eastern on c-span or c-span now, our new mobile app. join the discussion with your phone calls, facebook comments, text messages, and tweets. >> president biden and vice president harris on voting rights who called on congress to pass federal legislation and eliminate the filibuster. from atlanta, this is 40 minutes. >> now, president biden and vice president harris on voting rights. they call on congress to pass federal legislation and eliminate the filibuster. from atlanta, this is 40 minutes.
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♪ vice president harris: good afternoon, atlanta. good afternoon. [applause] jillian, thank you for that beautiful introduction and for your leadership. i can't wait to see what you do next. thank you. so last week, one year please, do say it last week, one year after a violent mob breached the united states capitol, the president of the united states and i spoke from its hallowed halls. and we made clear. we swore to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of
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the united states. and we will. we will fight. [applause] we will fight to safeguard our democracy. we will fight to secure our most fundamental freedom, the freedom to vote. and that's why we have come to atlanta today, to the cradle of the civil rights movement, to the district that was represented by the great congressman john lewis. [applause] on the eve of the birthday of reverend dr. martin luther king. more than 55 years ago, men, women, and children marched from selma to montgomery to demand
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the ballot. and when they arrived at the state capitol in alabama, dr. king decried what he called normalcy. the normalcy. the complacency. that was denying people the freedom to vote. the only normalcy anyone should accept, dr. king said, is the normalcy of justice. and his words resonates today. over the past few years, we've seen so many antivoter laws that there is a danger of becoming accustomed to these laws. a danger of adjusting to these laws as though they are normal. a danger of being complacent, complicit.
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antivoter laws are not new in our nation, but we must not be deceived into thinking they are normal. we must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it more difficult tore students to -- for students to vote is normal. we must not be deceived into thinking a law that makes it illegal to help a voter with a disability vote by mail is normal. [applause] there is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines. [applause] and i have met with voters in georgia. i have heard your outrage about the antivoter law here. and how many voters will likely be kept from voting. and georgia is not alone. across our nation, antivoter
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laws could make it more difficult for as many as 55 million americans to vote. that is one out of six people in our country. and the proponents of these laws are not only putting in place obstacles to the ballot box, they are also working to interfere with our elections, to get the outcome they want and to discredit those that they don't. that is not how a democracy should work. my fellow americans, do not succumb to those who would dismiss this assault on voting rights as an unfounded threat, who would wave this off as a partisan game. the assault on our freedom to vote will be felt by every american in every community in every political party.
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and if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come. as dr. king said, the battle is in our hands, and today, the battle is in the hands of the leaders of the american people, those in particular that the american people sent to the united states senate. two landmark bills sit before the united states senate. the john lewis voting rights advancement act, and the freedom to vote act. [applause] and these two bills represent the first real opportunity to secure the freedom to vote since the united states supreme court gutted the voting rights act nearly a decade ago. we do not know when we will have
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this opportunity again. senate republicans have exploited arcane rules to block these bills. and let us be clear. the constitution of the united states gives the congress the power to pass legislation, and nowhere, nowhere does the constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation. [applause] the american people have waited long enough. the senate must act. and the bottom line is this. years from now, our children and our grandchildren, they will ask us about this moment. they will look back on this time, and they will ask us not about how we felt they will ask us, what did we do?
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we cannot tell them that we let a senate rule stand in the way of our most fundamental freedom. instead, let us tell them that we stood together as people of conscience and courage. let us tell them we acted with the urgency that this moment demands and let us tell them we secured the freedom to vote that reinsured free and fair elections, and we safeguarded our democracy for them and their children. and now, my fellow americans, it is my honor to introduce a leader who was unwavering in his commitment to defend our democracy and ensure the ballot
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prevails. the president of the united states of america, joe biden. [applause] pres. biden: in our lives, there are times that we confront hard truths about ourselves, our
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institutions, and about our democracy. in the words of scripture, they remind us to hate people, love good, establish justice. last week, president harrison my -- president harris and i stood at the united states capital to observe one of those before and after moments in american history. january 6 insurrection that the citadel of our democracy. today, we come to atlanta, the cradle of civil rights to make clear what must come after that dreadful day when a dagger was literally held at the throat of american democracy. we stand on the grounds that connect clark, atlanta, atlanta
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university, morehouse college, spelman college, the home of advocates, preachers, young people, just like the students here who have done so much to build a better america. [applause] we visited the sacred ebenezer baptist church and pause to pray at the crips of daca and misses king, spend time with their families. here as was pointed out, represented and reflected a life of beloved friend john lewis. in their lifetimes, time stopped when a bomb blew up the baptist church in birmingham and murdered four little girls. they stopped when john and many others seeking justice for beating and bloodied while crossing the bridge of selma
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named after the grand dragon of the ku klux klan. they stopped, time stopped. they forced the country to confront the hard truths into act, act keep the promise of america alive. the promise that we are all created equal. and more important, deserve to be treated equally. from those moments of darkness and despair came light and hope. democrats, republicans, independence works to pass the historic voting rights act. in each successive generation continues that ongoing work. but then, the violent mob of january 6, 2021 empowered and encouraged by a defeated former president saw to win through
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violence what he had lost at the ballot box. to impose the will of the mob to overturn a free and fair election. and for the first time, the first time in american history to stop the peaceful transfer of power. they failed. they failed. but democracy, [apt democracy's victory was not certain. nor is democracy's future. that's why we're here today, to stand against the forces in america that value power over principle, forces at an attempt of a coup, a coup that sewed doubt and bending charges of fraud and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people. they want chaos to reign. we want the people to rule. [applause] let me be clear. this is not about me or vice
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president harris or our party. it's about all of us. it's about the people. it's about america. hear me plainly. the battle for the soul of america is not over. we must stand strong and stand together to make sure january 6 marks not the end of democracy but the beginning of a renaissance of our democracy. you know, for the right to vote and have that vote counted is democracy's threshold to liberty. without it, nothing is possible. but with it, anything is possible. a denial of free and fair elections is un-democratic, it's not unprecedented. black americans were denied full citizenship, voting rights until 1965. women were denied the right to vote to just 100 years ago.
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the united states supreme court in recent years has weakened the voting rights act. and now, the defeated former president and his supporters use the big lie about the 2020 election to fuel torment and anti-voting rights. new laws designed to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections. here in georgia, for years you have done the hard work of democracy. registering voters, educating voters, getting voters to the polls. you built a broad coalition of voters, black, white, latino, asian american, urban, suburban, rural, working class and middle class, and it's worked. you've changed the state by bringing more people, legally, to the polls. that's how you won the historic election the senator warknock and senator osoff.
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you did it the right way, the democratic way. and what's been the reaction of republicans in georgia? choose the wrong way. the un-democratic way. to them, too many people voting in a democracy is problem. so they're putting up obstacles. for example, voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote. so they're making it harder for you to vote by mail. the same way, i might add, in the 2020 election president trump voted from behind the desk in the white house in florida. dropping your ballots off to secured drop boxes. it's safe. it's convenient. you get more people to vote.
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so they're limiting the number of drop boxes and the hours you can use them. taking away the options has a ripple effect. longer lines at the polls. lines that can last for hours. you've seen them with your own eyes. people get tired. they get hungry. the bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty. the new georgia law actually makes it illegal, think of this. 2020. and now 2022, going into that election, it makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters food or water while they wait to vote. what in the hell, heck are we talking about? [laughter] i mean, think about it. [applause] that's not america. that's what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote.
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and here's how they plan to subvert the election. the georgia republican party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors, their cronies, to remove local election officials. think about that. what happened the last election? the former president and allies pursued, threatened, and intimidated state and local election officials, election workers, ordinary citizens were workers, citizens were subject to death threats, people stalking them to their homes. remember what the former president said to the highest ranking election official in this state? he said, i just want to find 11,847 votes. pray god. he didn't say that part. he didn't say count the votes. he said find votes.
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that he needed to win. he failed because of courageous officials, democrats, republicans, who did their duty and upheld the law. but with this new law in georgia, his loyalists will be placed in charge of state elections. what is that going to mean? the chances for chaos and subversion are even greater as partisans seek the results they want no matter what the voters have said new york matter what the count. the votes of nearly five million georgiaians will be up for grabs if that law holds. it's not just here in georgia. last year alone, 19 states, not proposed, but enacted, 34 laws attacking voting rights.
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there were nearly 400 additional bills republican members of state legislatures tried to pass. and now republican legislators in several states have announced plans to escalate the onslaught this year. their end game, to turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion. something states can respect or ignore. jim crow 2.0 is about two insidious things. voter suppression and election subversion. it's no longer about who gets to vote. it's about making it harder to vote. it's about who gets to count the vote. and whether your vote counts at all. it's not hyperbole, this is a fact. look, this matters to all of us. the goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them. simple as that.
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the facts won't matter. your vote won't matter. they'll just decide what they want and then do it. that's the kind of power you see in totalitarian states. not in democracies. we must be vigilant. and the world is watching. i've known the majority of the world leaders, the good and the bad ones. adversaries and allies alike. they're watching american democracy and seeing whether we can meet this moment. that's not hyperbole. i showed up at the g-7 with seven other world leaders, a total of nine present, vice president harris and i spent our careers doing this work. i said america is back. and the response was, for how long? for how long? as someone who worked in foreign
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policy my whole life i never thought i would ever hear our allies say something like that. d federal agencies to promote access to voting led by the vice president. we've appointed top civil rights advocates to help the u.s. department of justice which has doubled its voting rights enforcement staff. today, we call on congress to get done what history will judge. pass the freedom to vote act. [cheers and applause] pass it now. to prevent voter suppression. here in georgia there's full access to voting by mail. there are enough drop boxes during enough hours so you can bring food and water as well to people waiting in line.
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the freedom to vote act takes on election subversion to protect nonpartisan electors, officials, who are doing their job from intimidation and interference. it would get dark money out of politics. create fair district maps and ending partisan gerrymandering. look, it's also time to pass the john lewis voting rights advancement act. [cheers and applause] i've been having these quiet conversations with members of congress for the last two months. i'm tired of being quiet. [cheers and applause] folks, it'll restore the strength of the voting rights act of 1965. the one president johnson signed
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after john lewis was beaten, nearly killed, on bloody sunday. it's had the supreme court weaken it multiple timers of the last decades. restoring the voting rights act would mean the justice department could stop discriminatory laws before they go into effect. before they go into effect. the vice president and i have supported voting rights bills since day one of this administration but each and every time senate republicans have blocked the way. republicans oppose even debating the issue. you hear me? i've been around the senate a listening time. i was vice president for eight years. i've never seen a circumstance where not one single republican has a voice that's ready to speak for justice now. when i was a senator, including when i headed up the judiciary committee, i help red authorize
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the voting act three times. we held hearings. we debated. we voted. i was able to extend the voting rights act for 25 years. in 2006, the voting rights act passed 390-33 in the house of representatives and 98-0 in the senate. with votes from 16 current sitting republicans in this united states senate. 16 of them. voted to extend it. the last year i was chairman some of my friends sit do you think here will tell you, strom
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thurmond voted to extend the voting rights act. strom thurmond. you can say that again. wow. you have no idea how darn hard i worked on that one. but folks. then it was signed into law. the last time. by president george w. bush. you know, when we get voting rights extended in 1980, as i said, even thurmond supported it. think about that. the man who led one of the longest filibusters in history in the united states senate, 1957, against the voting rights act. the man who led and sided with old southern bulls in the united states senate to perpetuate segregation in this nation. even strom thurmond came to support voting rights. but republicans today can't and won't. not a single republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect america's right to vote. not one. not one. we are 50-50 in the united states senate. that means we have 51 presidents. you all think i'm kidding.
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[laughter] i've been pretty good at working with senators in my career but man when you've got 51 presidents it gets harder. any one can change the outcome. sadly, the united states senate designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body has been rendered a shell of its former self. gives me no satisfaction in seeing that. as an institutionalist. as a man who was honored to serve in the senate. but as an institutionalist, i believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills. debate them. vote. let the majority prevail. 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. [applause]
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you know, last year, if i'm not mistaken, the filibuster was used 154 times. the filibuster has been used to generate compromise in the past, promote some bipartisanship. but it's also used to obstruct including especially obstruct civil rights and voting rights. and when it was used, senators traditionally used to have to stand and speak at their desk for however long it took. sometimes it took hours. and when they sat down, if no one immediately stood up, anyone could call for a vote. the debate ended. but that doesn't happen today. senators no longer even have to speak one word. the filibuster is not used by republicans to bring the senate together but to pull it further apart. the filibuster has been weaponized and abused while the state legislative assaults on
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voting rights is simple. all you need in your house and senate is a pure majority. the united states senate it takes a super majority. 60 votes. even to get a vote. instead of 50. to protect the right to vote. state legislators can pass anti-voting laws with a simple majorities. if they can do that, the united states senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority. [applause] today, i am making it clear. to protect our democracy irk support changing the senate rules. whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights. [applause] when it comes to protecting majority rule in america, the majority should rule in the united states senate.
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i make this announcement with careful deliberation recognizing the fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other rights flow. and i make it with an appeal to my republican colleagues. to those republicans who believe in the rule of law. restore the bipartisan tradition of voting rights. people restored it who abided by it in the past were richard nixon, gerald ford, ronald ragan, george h w bush, george w. bush, they all supported the voting rights act. don't let the republican party morph into something else. restore the institution of the senate the way it was designed to be. senate rules were just changed to raise the debt ceiling so we wouldn't renege on our debt for the first time in our history.
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prevent an economic crisis. that was dope by a, that was done by a simple majority. as senator warnock said a few weeks ago in a power. speech if we change the rules to protect the full faith and credit of the united states we should be able to change the rules to protect the heart and soul of our democracy. he was right. the days that followed john lewis' death, there was an outpouring of praise and support across the political spectrum. but as we stand here today, it isn't enough just to praise his memory. we must translate eulogy into action. we need to follow john lewis' footsteps. we need to support the bill in his name. just a few days ago, we talked about up in the congress, in the white house, the event coming up shortly to celebrate dr. king's birthday.
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and americans of all stripes will praise him for the content of his character. but as dr. king's family said before, it's not enough to praise their father. they even said on this holiday don't celebrate his birthday unless you're willing to support what he lived for and what he died for. the next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation's history. we will choose, the issue is, will we choose democracy over autocracy? light over shadows? justice over injustice? i know where i stand. i will not yield. i will not flinch. i will defend the right to vote. our democracy against autoenemies foreign, and, yes, domestic. [cheers and applause] the question is, where will the
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institution of the united states senate stand? every senator, democrat, republican and independent, will have to declare where they stand. not just for the moment but for the ages. will you stand against voter suppression? yes or no? that is the question you will answer. will you stand against election subversion? yes or no? will you stand for democracy? yes, or no? here's one thing every senator, every american should remember. history has never been kind to those who have sided with voter suppression over voters' rights. they will be even less kind for those who side with election subversion. soy ask every elected official in america how do you want to be remembered?
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consequential moments in history present a choice. do you want to be on the side of dr. king or george wallace? do you want to be on the side of john lewis or bull connor? do you want to be on the side of abraham lincoln or jefferson davis? this is the moment to decide. to defend our elections. to defend our democracy. [applause] and if you do that, you will not be alone. that's because the struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone. we saw freedom riders of every race, leaders of every faith marching arm in arm. and yes, democrats and republicans in congress of the united states and in the presidency. i did not live the struggles of douglass, tubman, king, lewis, goodman, cheney, and countless others known and unknown.
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i did not walk in the shoes of generations of students who walked these grounds. but i walk other grounds because i'm so damn old i was there as well. [laughter] they think i'm kidding, man. [laughter] seems like yesterday the first time i got arrested, anyway. but their struggles here, they're the ones who opened my eyes as a high school student in the late 1950's an early 1960's. they got me more engaged in the work of my life. and what we're talking about today is rooted in the very idea of america. the idea that anelle ponder who graduated from clark atlanta captured in a single word. she was a teacher and a librarian who was also an
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unyielding champion of voting rights. in 1963, when i was just starting college and university, after registering votes for the mississippi, she was pulled off a bus, arrested, and jailed, where she was brutally beaten. in the cell next to her was fannie lou hamer. who described the beating this way, and i quote. i could hear the sounds of the licks and the horrible screams. they beat her, i don't know for how long, and after a while she began to pray and ask god to have mercy on those people. annelle ponder's friends visited her the next day. her face was badly swollen. she could hardly talk. but she managed to whisper one word. freedom. freedom. the only word she whispered.
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after nearly 250 years since our founding, that singular idea still echoes but it's up to all of us to make sure it never fades. especially the students here. your generation. that just started voting. as there are those who are trying to take away that vote you just started to be able to exercise. but the giants we honor today were your age when they made clear who we must be as a nation. not a joke. think about it. in the early 1960's, they were sitting where you're sitting. they were you.
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and like them, you give me much hope for the future. before and after in our lives, and the leif of this nation, democracy is who we are, who we must be, now and forever. let's stand in this breach together. with love good, establish justice in the gate and remember as i said there is one, this is one of those defining moments in american history. each of those who vote will be remembered. by class after class. in the 1950's and 1960's, the 2050's, and 2060's. each one of the members of the senate will be judged by history on where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote. there's no escape. so let's get back to work. as my grandfather used to say every time i walked out the door in scranton. he said joey, keep the faith. then he said, no, joey, spread
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it. let's spread the faith and get this done. [cheers and applause] may god bless you all and may god protect the sacred right to vote. thank you. i mean it. let's go get this done. thank you. [laughter] ♪
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