During his speech marking the 100th anniversary of the horrific Tulsa Race Massacre on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced that he had tossed yet another job duty Kamala Harris’ way, tapping the veep to lead his administration’s efforts on voting rights.
The president also appeared to throw some shade at moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), lamenting that there were “two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends” than the Democrats.
Amid ramped-up efforts by Republican-led legislatures across the nation to pass restrictive voting laws, the president used his Tulsa speech to call for Congress to pass both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both voting rights bills are currently hung up in the Senate.
“Today, as for the act of voting itself, I urge voting groups to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters,” the president declared, saying June should be a “month of action” for Congress.
Noting that he’s been criticized for not getting voting rights legislation passed, Biden took a veiled swipe at Sinema and Manchin while explaining the slim majorities Democrats have in both chambers of Congress.
“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’” Biden exclaimed. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republicans friends.”
Both Manchin and Sinema oppose ending the legislative filibuster to allow a number of Biden’s agenda items—such as voting rights legislation and a Jan. 6 independent commission—to pass with a simple majority. On top of that, Manchin has not been supportive of the sweeping For the People Act, instead trying to cut a deal with Republicans to pass a restored Voting Rights Act.
“I’m asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many other responsibilities,” Biden announced. “With her leadership, and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you.”
In a statement first released to CNN, Harris acknowledged her new assignment, which she will add to her growing list of tasks that includes addressing the southern border crisis and leading the administration’s focus on small business.
“In the days and weeks ahead, I will engage the American people, and I will work with voting rights organizations, community organizations, and the private sector to help strengthen and uplift efforts on voting rights nationwide,” she said. “And we will also work with members of Congress to help advance these bills.”
Meanwhile, throughout his speech, Biden noted that he was the first president in 100 years to “acknowledge the truth” of what took place during the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, stating that it spoke to how long the event remained out of sight and mind.
“For much too long the history of what took place here was told in silence,” he remarked. “Cloaked in darkness, but just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing.”
Describing the violent deaths of dozens of Black Tulsa residents as “literal hell,” he drew a standing ovation when he reminded the audience that this “was not a riot—this was a massacre,” adding that it was “among the worst in our history.”