Joe Biden is calling on Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump to extend the Voting Rights Act if they are serious about honoring the legacy of John Lewis.
The former vice president told reporters on Tuesday when unveiling his plan to address racial inequities in the United States economy that he had spoken to Lewis shortly before his passing this month.
“Instead of answering my concerns for him,” Biden said of the late Georgia congressman. “He asked about me, he asked about us, he asked that we stay focused on the work left undone to heal this nation.”
Discussing the dual crises presented by the novel coronavirus and its economic consequences, Biden claimed that people are just now seeing how much “systemic racism” is “plaguing the nation.” One of the first steps to addressing such challenges, the former vice president said, was for the Republican-controlled Senate to pass legislation “to restore the Voting Rights Act” and for Trump to sign the measure into law.
Biden, specifically, argued such a step would be monumental considering that House Democrats had just renamed a bill to restore the Act in the memory of Lewis.
“Back the effusive praise, we’ve heard since he passed, especially from many of our Republican friends,” the former vice president said. “Back it with some action. Protect that sacred right to vote that [Lewis] was willing to die for.”
Lewis, a prominent civil rights icon, succumbed to cancer at the age of 80 in mid-June. For most of his congressional career, Lewis promoted efforts to ease restrictions on voting. Since his passing, numerous high-profile Democrats have urged Senate Republicans to pass an updated version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Democrats argue that an update is required since provisions of the landmark law, specifically those prohibiting states with a history of racial discrimination from changing their election laws without the federal approval, were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.