Hundreds of religious leaders are asking for more from Biden regarding voting rights

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Hundreds of religious leaders are demanding more from President Joe Biden and other Democrats on voting rights. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King III speaks at a press conference on voting rights September 13th in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

From Chandelis Duster, CNN

(CNN) – More than 800 religious leaders are calling on President Joe Biden and the Senate Democrats to pass a voting law in 2022, writing in a letter published Thursday that the issue should be the government’s “number one priority” must Senate after measures stall.

“We cannot be clearer: you must act now to protect the freedom of every American, voting without interference and trusting that their ballots will be counted and honored,” said the leaders in a letter received from CNN and was released later on Thursday. “Passing comprehensive voting laws must be the top priority of administration and Congress.”

The letter comes as civil rights activists and members of the Congressional Black Caucus increase pressure on the Biden government to pass a voting bill after Republicans blocked two Democratic-led measures.

Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Joyce Beatty, an Ohio Democrat, returned to Washington Wednesday to hold an emergency meeting with fellow caucus members, a source familiar with the scheduling of the meeting told CNN.

The advance of religious leaders comes a week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s family called for “not celebrating” MLK Day – a federal holiday on the third Monday in January to commemorate the civil rights icon’s birthday – without passing the suffrage law . . It also follows another attempt by a group of young Americans who went on a 15-day hunger strike to call for action on the issue, which ended earlier this week.

Martin Luther King III and his wife Arndrea Waters King co-organized the letter with several faith organizations. The African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and Faith in Public Life are among the organizers.

The faith leaders who signed the letter are from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions, including Reverend Canon Leonard L. Hamlin Sr. of Washington National Cathedral, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg of the National Council of Jewish Women, and Rabbi Charles Kroloff, former President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

“We should be in a phase of enlargement, protection and preservation of the right to vote, and so the federal government should take remedial action,” Martin Luther King III told CNN, noting that more than 30 bills have been tabled, which the right to vote restrict in the state parliaments.

“This relic must go”

The leaders also called for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, the two bills that blocked Republicans in the Senate, to pass, writing that “nothing – including the filibuster” should stand in the way of action.

“We believe the filibuster needs to be phased out,” King told CNN, adding that it was used to block important measures like anti-lynch and civil rights legislation. “This relic has to go. It is really unfortunate that we have to have this discussion this time. … That should have happened already. “

Democrats were frustrated with the lack of progress on certain measures, including voting rights, and many called for the filibuster to be abolished or changed. But they do not have the votes to end rule amid a slim majority and opposition within their own party. The Senate filibuster rule requires 60 votes to get most laws forward, and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose changing the rule to pass voting laws.

Sinema, who says she supports both bills, also supports the rule “to protect the country from repeated radical reversals in federal policy that would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions and further undermine American confidence in our government,” she said Speaker John LaBombard in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York spoke about passing a suffrage bill next year on a private caucus call with fellow Democrats Tuesday night, saying that “the very foundation of our democracy – free and fair elections – is at stake “A Democratic source told CNN.

“In the interests of our democracy, we must ensure that the Senate can debate voting legislation in this Congress and reach a final conclusion. And soon, ”said Schumer, according to the source.

That same night, Beatty called on the Senate, which is on vacation, to convene again to send “meaningful voting laws” to Biden’s desk.

Biden, who said he was open to changing the filibuster to get the voting pass, also promised last week that he would continue to fight for the voting pass, telling South Carolina State University alumni that “this one Fight Is Not Over “, urging lawmakers to pass two voting bills blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

“We will continue the fight until we do it and you will continue the fight and we urgently need your help,” he said at the opening ceremony at the historically black university.

A message that is deeper than the right to vote

As Biden and other Democrats vow to keep fighting for the right to vote, faith leaders say lawmakers must do more than make promises. The kings believe that the President and Congress must make every effort to achieve victory in the voting rights legislation.

“We have seen what happens when the White House and Congress put their full power and effort into something they support. We saw it with the Infrastructure Act, “Arndrea Waters King told CNN, adding that she and other activists will cross symbolic bridges over the weekend of MLK Day. “We’re physically crossing these bridges to say you stood for bridges, now is the time to stand for people.”

Dr. Stephany Spaulding, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the letter sent another message in addition to protecting voting rights.

“Deeper than that is the reality that we can no longer exploit the life and pain of our communities,” Spaulding told CNN. “Every two to four years we see politicians come into our communities and make promises to our members and say how life in this area will get better for our communities and members. And then we end up in moments like these when we are on the verge of tremendous failure. “

She continued: “As sacred as our trust in them is as politicians, it is sacred for them to uphold the righteousness of which they speak.”

The CNN Wire

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