'Have you no shame?': Biden against efforts in GOP-led states to restrict voting rights

  • Biden says efforts to restrict voting access is ‘most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War'
  • Biden's remarks come as at least 14 states have enacted laws restricting voting access.
  • Biden has said protecting voting rights will be a priority for his administration.

PHILADELPHIA – In what he described as the "most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War," President Joe Biden in Philadelphia on Tuesday warned Americans that there is an "assault" on democracy and urged them to fight efforts in Republican-led states to pass laws that restrict voting access.

"Hear me clearly. There's an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections, an assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are as Americans," Biden said during his speech at the National Constitution Center to roughly 300 people.

"The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real," he said. "It's unrelenting." 

Biden called on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, saying it's a "national imperative." 

"We'll be asking my Republican friends in Congress and states and cities and counties to stand up for God's sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote," Biden said. "Have you no shame?"

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President Joe Biden

Biden’s remarks come as at least 14 states have enacted laws that restrict voting access following last year’s presidential election and as former President Donald Trumpcontinues to spread baseless claims that his loss to Biden was the result of widespread voter fraud.

Biden's speech also came as more than 50 Texas House Democrats made their way to Washington, D.C., as part of an effort to stop a vote on restrictive election laws in their state. Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with the group of Democrats this week.

In Pennsylvania, where Biden eked out a narrow victory over Trump, Republican state Rep. Doug Mastriano, a Trump ally, is trying to launch a review of the state’s presidential election results similar to what is underway in Arizona.

Trump in a statement criticized Biden's trip to Philadelphia. Trump said Biden went to Pennsylvania in "order to stop the Forensic Audit that the Pennsylvania Republican Senate is in the process of doing."

'The Big Lie is just that, a big lie'

During his speech, Biden recalled the multiple failed legal challenges and recounts during the 2020 election. He added that "no other election has ever been held under such scrutiny and such standards."

"The Big Lie is just that, a big lie," Biden said of those challenging the results of the election.

In Congress, sweeping legislation that Democrats argue would make it easier for people to vote and register to vote has stalled in the Senate as a result of a Republican filibuster. And earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law that limits how absentee ballots may be returned, a ruling that critics asserted would make it more difficult for minorities to challenge laws they believe are discriminatory.

‘So what’s next?’: After voting rights loss, Democrats and allies seek alternatives

Biden has said that voting rights will be a priority for his administration and has tasked Harris with leading the administration’s efforts to protect ballot access.

Last week, Harris announced a $25 million expansion of the Democratic National Committee’s “I Will Vote” initiative to bolster voter education and protection, targeted voter registration and deployment of new technology to increase access.

While Biden's speech Tuesday received praise from some activists, they also urged the president and vice president to do everything in their power – even making changes to the filibuster – to have Congress pass the bills that will protect voters.

“This existential crisis of democracy requires urgent action as some erect deliberate barriers to the ballot box for Black, brown, Indigenous, and new Americans," said Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "The president and vice president must do everything possible to ensure legislation like the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act become law, even if that means supporting the change of archaic Senate rules to protect our freedom to vote.”

Contributing: Sarah Elbeshbishi, Savannah Behrmann, Ledyard King