Biden to address voting rights in MLK tribute

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President Joe Biden is set to mark what would have been the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday with a sermon Sunday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that aims to celebrate the civil rights leader’s legacy, renewing the Biden administration’s call for a broad vote on the legislation about rights. Video above: The “Embrace” sculpture unveiled in Boston on the eve of MLK Jr. DayBiden’s failure to pass a measure that would strengthen voting rights protections, a key campaign promise, has been one of his biggest disappointments in his first two years in office. The task is even more difficult now that Republicans control the House of Representatives. Ahead of Biden’s visit to the church where King once preached, White House officials said he was committed to advocating 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 Atlanta mayor from 2018 to 2022, said “you can’t come to Atlanta and not recognize the role of the civil rights movement and Dr. King where we entered the history of our country.” The Democratic voting rights bill, called honoring John Lewis, the late civil rights leader and Georgia congressman, included provisions that would have made Election Day a national holiday, provided access to early voting and mail-in ballots, and allowed the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of election meddling, among Other changes The legislation collapsed last year when two senators — Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona, then a Democrat and now an independent — refused to join their Democratic colleagues in changing Senate rules to overcome Republican filibuster. Sinema announced last month that she was changing her party affiliation, but she continues to caucus with Democrats . Biden was invited to Ebenezer, where King served as co-pastor from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968 by Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor. Warnock, like many Democrats in battleground states up for re-election in 2022, kept his distance from Biden during the campaign when the president’s approval ratings lagged and inflation soared. But as Biden begins to turn his attention to an expected re-election in 2024, Georgia is going to get a lot of his attention. In 2020, Biden managed to win in Georgia, as well as in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the black vote made up a disproportionately larger number of the Democratic Party electorate. Turning out black voters in those states will be critical to Biden’s 2024 hopes. The White House has tried to push Biden’s agenda in minority communities. The White House cited efforts to encourage states to account for capital for public works projects as they spend money from the administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The administration also took steps to end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine crimes, reversing a policy widely seen as racist. The administration is also highlighting Biden’s work to diversify the federal judiciary, including appointing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to the Supreme Court and confirming 11 black judges to federal appeals courts — more than those appointed to those courts. powerful courts under all previous presidents combined. The visit to Ebenezer also comes at a sensitive time for Biden after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the president’s handling of classified documents since leaving the vice presidency in 2017. The White House revealed on Saturday that additional classified records were found at Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware. In Atlanta, Biden will be the first sitting president to speak at a Sunday service at Ebenezer, Botmats said. King, who was assassinated in 1968 after he helped pass 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 in attendance during Biden’s visit. The president plans to be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual King Holiday Breakfast.___Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

President Joe Biden is set to mark what would have been the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday with a sermon Sunday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that aims to celebrate the civil rights leader’s legacy, renewing the Biden administration’s call for a broad vote on the legislation about rights.

Video above: The “Embrace” sculpture is unveiled in Boston ahead of MLK Jr. Day

Biden’s failure to push through a measure that would strengthen voting rights protections, a key campaign promise, has been one of his biggest disappointments in his first two years in office. The task is even more difficult now that Republicans control the House of Representatives.

Ahead of Biden’s visit to the church where King once preached, White House officials said he is committed to pushing 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 Atlanta mayor from 2018 to 2022, said “you can’t come to Atlanta and not recognize the role that the civil rights movement and Dr. King played in our country’s history.”

The Democrats’ voting rights bill, named after John Lewis, the late civil rights leader and Georgia congressman, included provisions that would make Election Day a national holiday, provide access to early voting and mail-in ballots, and allow the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of election interference, among other changes.

The legislation collapsed last year when two senators — Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona, then a Democrat and now an independent — refused to join their Democratic colleagues in changing Senate rules to overcome Republican filibuster. Sinema announced last month that she was changing her party affiliation, but she continues to attend meetings with Democrats.

Raphael Warnock, a Democratic senator and senior pastor, invited Biden to Ebenezer, where King served as co-pastor from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968. Warnock, like many Democrats in the battleground states to win the 2022 election year, kept his distance from Biden during the campaign, when the president’s approval rating lagged and the inflation rate rose.

But as Biden begins to turn his attention to an expected re-election bid in 2024, Georgia is going to get a lot of his attention.

In 2020, Biden managed to win in Georgia, as well as in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the black vote made up a disproportionate part of the Democratic Party electorate. Turning out black voters in these states will be critical to Biden’s 2024 hopes.

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

The administration is also highlighting Biden’s work to diversify the federal judiciary, including appointing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first black woman to the Supreme Court and confirming 11 black judges to federal appeals courts — more than those appointed to those courts. powerful courts under all previous presidents combined.

The visit to Ebenezer also comes at a sensitive time for Biden after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the president’s handling of classified documents since leaving the vice presidency in 2017. The White House revealed on Saturday that additional classified records were found at Biden’s home near Wilmington, Delaware.

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

King, who was assassinated in 1968 after helping to pass 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 in attendance during Biden’s visit.

The president plans to be in Washington on Monday to speak at the National Action Network’s annual King Holiday Breakfast.

___

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Biden to address voting rights in MLK tribute

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