Biden returns to Georgia to honor MLK, evokes ‘a moment of choice’

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ATLANTA — President Biden returned to Georgia on Sunday and used a speech commemorating the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to reiterate some of his 2020 campaign themes in a possible 2024 preview, marking his first visit to the state in more of a year.

Although the visit was not a political event and was meant to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, it marked an important moment for Biden, who avoided Georgia in the midterm elections. term and the hard-fought runoff in December that ultimately propelled Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) to a full six-year term in the Senate.

The speech came amid political fallout from the discovery of classified documents at Biden’s DC think tank and his personal residence in Wilmington, Del. On Saturday, Biden’s attorney said five additional pages with classified marks were discovered at the president’s home in Wilmington.

In December, Georgia drew more attention when Biden proposed moving the Southern swing state into the 2024 Democratic presidential primary calendar to make it one of the few early nominating contests before Super Tuesday on March 7. . The state was key to Biden’s victory in 2020, where strong voter turnout — especially among black voters — helped him win the traditionally Republican state by less than 12,000 votes.

But Georgian officials have cast doubt on Biden’s plan, unsure whether it will come to fruition.

While Biden spoke generously about King’s legacy, calling the civil rights leader one of his two heroes, the president also revisited some of the themes of his 2020 campaign and spoke about the tremendous work the country still has to do to protect democracy, the right to vote and the economy. justice in a potential insight into the issues that could lead to a 2024 presidential election.

Biden returned to a common refrain – that there is a battle to “redeem America’s soul” – while warning of an existential battle between democracy and autocracy.

“At this inflection point, we know there is a lot of work for us to continue on economic justice, civil rights, the right to vote and the protection of our democracy.“, Biden said. “Now is the time to choose and direct the choices we have. Are we a people who will choose democracy over autocracy?

Biden delivered the speech in sermon form at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the nation’s most famous black church, where King once preached. He spoke at the invitation of Warnock, who led the church for more than 15 years.

Biden’s speech also marked the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, which commemorates the civil rights leader who spurred the passage of two landmark bills: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Biden is also expected to deliver the keynote address at the National Action Network’s annual MLK breakfast on Monday.

The president last visited Georgia just over a year ago to deliver a major speech on suffrage. In that speech, Biden said the Senate should change its rules “the way they need to be changed” to pass voting rights legislation through a filibuster exclusion that would allow Democrats to vote. pass the legislation with 50 votes instead of 60, which would have required Republican support.

That speech — in which Biden tied Congressional Republicans to Jim Crow-era laws limiting the franchise — drew the ire of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called the speech of the President’s “rant” that “was inconsistent, incorrect and under his office.”

Congress did not act on this legislation, largely because of the opposition of the senses. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) to eliminate the filibuster. (Sinema was a Democrat who has since said she was changing her party affiliation to an independent.)

Lack of action on suffrage after repeated promises to act has frustrated civil rights leaders and black voters in Georgia, where Republican lawmakers passed state legislation that rights advocates say polling stations and religious leaders, will drastically reduce the participation of minorities. Now that Republicans control the House of Representatives, national action on voting rights is even less likely.

Georgia has proven to be an exceptionally important state for Biden. Not only has it helped propel him to the presidency – and is likely to play a key role in that process if he runs as planned in 2024 – but the election of two Democratic senators there has also enabled him to retain a majority in the Senate through his entire first term.

Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff were elected there in 2020, and Warnock’s victory this fall over Republican Herschel Walker gave Democrats 51 seats in the 100-member Senate. While still a narrow majority, the extra seat gives Democrats some breathing room on legislative proposals and presidential confirmations.

Warnock also spoke on Sunday, touting many of Democrats’ greatest achievements, including the $700 billion health, tax and climate bill known as the Cut Inflation Act; the bipartisan infrastructure bill; and a provision in the Reducing Inflation Act that caps the cost of insulin at $35 per month for seniors.

“This, my friends, is the work of God, and Georgia had a little something to do with it,” Warnock said.

Biden, meanwhile, also touted some of his administration’s other accomplishments — including appointing Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black female Supreme Court justice.

The president quoted Jackson: “It only took a generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Biden said.


Washington

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