President Joseph R. Biden (D) will be in Atlanta on Tuesday to deliver a key speech promoting Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-AL) voting rights bill – a top priority for the administration. Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL07) will travel to Atlanta on Air Force One with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
In Atlanta, Biden will deliver remarks about the need to pass Sewell’s H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill, which has already passed the House, would thwart state laws that Democrats claim make it harder for people to vote.
Terri Sewell is the author and lead sponsor of the bill that would once again place Alabama and many other states under the preclearance clause of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was previously ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, in the landmark decision Shelby versus Holder.
Sewell is also the Co-Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus.
On Aug. 24, 2021, H.R. 4 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-213. On Nov. 3, 2021, it failed in the Senate after nearly every Senate Republican voted to block debate on the bill. In the absence of robust Republican support, Congresswoman Sewell has led her colleagues in calling on the Senate to change Senate rules to end the filibuster so that Senate Democrats can then pass her H.R. 4.
Sewell joined Reps. G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Marc Veasey (TX-33), and Nikema Williams (GA-05) in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) to urge action to advance the Freedom to Vote Act and John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Sewell and the other three Democratic members wrote, “As champions of voting rights in Congress, we write to express serious concern about the year ending without a path forward on advancing voting rights.
“After months of compromises, Republicans have not come to the table on voting rights in numbers sufficient to overcome the existing filibuster. Ending 2021 without voting rights reform will allow state legislatures to continue their efforts in the new year to limit the right to vote. Meanwhile, failing to end partisan gerrymandering will allow some states to finalize maps that enshrine profound partisan imbalances for the next decade. We have no time to lose to ensure people have access to the ballot box and have a fair voice in selecting their representatives.”
Republicans remain highly critical of H.R. 4 and its effect on state election laws – including banning Alabama’s photo ID requirement.
Congressman Barry Moore (R-AL02) and Mo Brooks (R-Al05) both have released statements explaining their decisions to vote against H.R. 4.
“After failing to federalize our elections through HR1, Pelosi’s deceitful sequel is yet another unconstitutional power grab intended to keep Democrats in power,” said Moore. “Despite being named after a Civil Rights icon, the title only serves as a guise to hide Democrats’ true intentions of centralizing election power with the federal government. I cannot support this delusional attack on democracy, but I remain committed to strengthening election integrity for all Americans.”
“The Socialist Democrats were dealt a blow when the Senate voted down HR1, the ‘Socialist Democrat Election Fraud Enhancement Act,’” Brooks said. “Now, they seek to again undermine America’s election systems with HR4, a bill that eliminates state safeguards that protect honest and accurate elections. Much like HR1, HR4 undermines our republic and effectively turns election results into what we so often see in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, Venezuela and any number of other pretend republics. Citizens can vote, but the election results are predetermined.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I talked with him [Biden] about this after the speech today [Jan. 6], and he made very clear that the risk we have here at — at stake here is our democracy, is burying what happened on January 6th, is not taking action — not just in words but in action — to protect people’s fundamental rights. You will obviously hear him speak next Tuesday about voting rights — something he touched on very briefly today — because he will be giving this speech next Tuesday, and you will hear him making the case about the fact that we are at an inflection point, there’s more that we need to do, and we need to do everything we can to ensure the dark day in our history that happened one year ago today is not buried.”
Control of Congress will be decided by the voters in this year’s election. While Alabama is not in play for Democrats, Georgia is a hugely important state for both parties as it proved in the 2020 election. Democrats have a 50:50 majority in the Senate because they flipped both Georgia U.S. Senate seats. Republicans hope to flip Sen. Raphael Warnock's seat back to Republican control in November. Biden has made multiple trips to Georgia to shore up his support there. The debate over H.R. 4 is largely about setting the rules for how the 2022 election will play out.
Sewell is in her sixth term representing Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District.
The major party primaries in Alabama are on May 24. The general election across the country will be on Nov. 8.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.