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Biden Administration Lays Out Goals To Protect Voting Rights

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A test of our time - that is what President Joe Biden said this afternoon, addressing a crowd in Philadelphia in a highly anticipated speech on voting rights. The president said Republican state legislators are trying to pass 21st century Jim Crow laws and that Democrats will challenge them vigorously.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The backdrop here, of course, includes a raft of new laws and proposed laws on voting in at least 17 states. Biden and scores of voting rights advocates say these measures will ultimately restrict ballot access for Americans while disproportionately impacting voters of color.

KELLY: Texas is the latest state trying to pass new voting laws. Some Democratic lawmakers left the state this week in protest and in hopes of preventing restrictive new voting laws from passing in a special legislative session.

CORNISH: As for the response from the Biden administration, the U.S. Department of Justice is already suing Georgia over its new voting law. The White House is also calling on Congress to pass Democrats' For the People Act, which Republicans blocked by filibuster in the Senate.

KELLY: In an interview this afternoon with NPR's Asma Khalid, Vice President Kamala Harris hinted she has discussed possible changes to the filibuster with senators, but she refused to elaborate on those talks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I believe that of all of the issues that the United States Congress can take up, the right to vote is the right that unlocks all the other rights. And for that reason, it should be one of its highest priorities. Now, the members of the Senate are going to have to address this, and we're going to continue to work to find a path forward, no matter how difficult. And obviously, it's going to require all the Democrats to - in the Senate, to agree with that approach.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Is it an approach that you've been advocating for at all, just amongst your former colleagues in the Senate, that maybe it is worth carving out an exception for voting rights?

HARRIS: I mean, I'm not going to kind of negotiate with - sorry. I don't mean this in any offense, but I'm not going to negotiate this way. But I am certainly having conversations.

KELLY: The Vice President also mentioned Supreme Court decisions, including one this month that upheld voting restrictions in Arizona as an ongoing challenge.

HARRIS: Since 2013 with Shelby v. Holder and now this most recent case, we know that we are up against some very serious obstacles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.