Vice President Kamala Harris says she is speaking with Republican senators on a key piece of electoral legislation. In a telephone interview with CBS News, the vice president said there was “no clear line” defining who she was speaking to about voting rights legislation. She said it was “a non-partisan issue” and “should be approached that way.”
In response to a question whether she had spoken with GOP senators about S. 1, the sweeping voting rights bill that was blocked in the Senate, she replied: “I have spoke to Republican senators – both elected Republicans and Republican leaders, ”Harris said, and she identified a GOP senator.
” I spoke with [Senator Lisa] Murkowski on this issue, ”Harris said.
Harris’s office later clarified that the two discussed infrastructure, not voting rights. A Murkowski spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
S. 1 is not a bill Murkowski favors – she once called the For the People Act a “partisan federal takeover of the electoral system.”
The Alaska senator is a co-sponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would essentially restore part of the law struck down by the Supreme Court. This bill also faces opposition from the GOP and has yet to be introduced, but the White House has also expressed support for this legislation.
Bill S. 1 proposes the biggest overhaul of electoral laws in a generation and would revamp campaign finance laws, ensure automatic voter registration, and expand access to advance and postal voting. Voting rights advocates are hoping it could replace some of the restrictive voting measures adopted by state legislatures led by the GOP.
Last week, President Biden delivered remarks in Philadelphia denouncing the more restrictive measures being considered and passed by the GOP-led legislatures, calling themon access to voting.
But Democrats took a heavy blow in late June when Republicans in the Senate blocked a vote to start debate on the bill. Harris told CBS News that despite this setback, the For the People Act is still a “key part of what we need to do to fight for the right to vote.”
The failed Senate vote also renewed calls from some progressives to remove or weaken the filibuster. One possibility that has been mentioned recently is an exclusion for the vote of the legislation. Cliff Albright, executive director of the Black Voters Matter Fund, said on a phone call: “Even though it looks like the call has a right to vote [filibuster] The carveout is gaining momentum, we still have no news from the White House. “
In the interview, Harris twice refused to support filibuster reform of any kind, but echoed the president by saying that “there is a national imperative to pass the law on the government. right to vote, and this is the test of our time ”. Pressed further on filibuster reform, she added, “Any change to filibuster will require all Senate Democrats to support those changes.”
It was tacit recognition that the Senate seems to lack a voice to change the filibuster. In the 50-50 Senate, two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said they would not support dropping the filibuster. Additionally, Manchin has indicated that he will only support bipartisan voting legislation, so even if there were changes to the filibuster, S. 1 would not have the votes to pass.
For her part, Harris has engaged with franchise advocates and organizers at her ceremonial office in Washington, DC and across the country. Last week, Harris met with Texas lawmakers who broke the quorum to block a controversial GOP-led bill by traveling to Washington, DC, and held a listening session with black female leaders on the issue. .
She told CBS News that she also plans to meet with indigenous leaders from America and Alaska next week to discuss voting rights. Harris met with members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday to discuss exit-voting efforts, while the Super Bowl champions visited the White House.
In a joint statement after their meeting with President Biden and Harris last month, civil rights leaders from organizations such as the NAACP, the National Urban League and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund urged the White House to “do even more to push Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. ”
Since May, at least 14 states have enacted 22 new laws that would restrict access to voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, including Florida, Georgia and Iowa. The Justice Department is suing Georgia over the electoral law it passed in April, alleging that the bill seeks to restrict access to the ballot to black voters.
“There is a lot of work to be done. There is no doubt about it.” Harris said. “I join the chorus in saying that everyone must approach this issue with a sense of urgency and a sense of deep commitment to fight against these efforts to suppress the vote.”