Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday met with Democratic members of the Texas Legislature who successfully staved off a voter restriction bill in their state last month, calling the group “American patriots” who had fought to preserve a fundamental democratic right.
“What we are seeing are examples of an attempt to marginalize and take from people, a right that has already been given. We are not asking for the bestowal of a right. We are talking about the preservation,” Ms. Harris told the group in remarks delivered in the Roosevelt Room. “That is the right of citizenship. And it’s that fundamental.”
It was the first high-profile meeting on the issue that Ms. Harris has hosted since President Biden named her the leader of the administration’s broad efforts to protect voting rights, an issue that Mr. Biden feels is central to his legacy. In a call with reporters before the meeting, three senior administration officials said the vice president was personally invested in the issue, and directly sees herself as a beneficiary of laws, including the Voting Rights Act, that have protected the right to vote.
The officials did not provide a concrete answer when asked how Ms. Harris’s convening of Texas Democrats could help the White House stake out a stronger position should Republicans in the state remain united to pass an election bill, as they have vowed to do this summer.
But the White House has repeatedly signaled that Ms. Harris will be using the “bully pulpit” of the vice presidency to bring attention to bills introduced in Republican-led statehouses across the country that are designed to eat away at voting protections. During a visit to Greenville, S.C., on Monday, Ms. Harris hosted a listening session with local activists to discuss what they are doing to get more people registered to vote, a key tactic that administration officials say will help counteract the restrictive laws at the local level.
“When we look at these attempts to infringe on people’s access to voting, we know that it is going to impact people,” Ms. Harris said in the Roosevelt Room. “Americans with disabilities, seniors, students, people of every walk of life.”
Two weeks ago, the Democrats in the Texas Legislature staged a dramatic, late-night walkout to force the failure of a sweeping Republican overhaul of state election laws. With two expansive pieces of voting-rights legislation facing bleak odds in the Senate, and Texas Republicans vowing to pass an elections bill anyway, the group has used the newfound attention to call for federal voting protections.
Yesterday, as part of a series of meetings designed to rally support for an expansive piece of federal legislation on voting, Senate Democrats invited the legislators to lunch to push for the bill. But a key invitee did not attend: Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who has disparaged the bill, called the For the People Act, as too partisan, skipped the meeting.
In her own meeting, Ms. Harris took issue with the criticism that protecting voting rights was a partisan endeavor.
“We’re not telling people how to vote,” Ms. Harris said. “And, frankly, this is not a Democratic or a Republican issue; this is an American issue. This is an American issue.”