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Vice President Kamala Harris voiced a first show of support from the Biden administration for a group of Democratic lawmakers who left the state of Texas to prevent the passage of two bills aimed at restricting voting.
Speaking to reporters on Monday after arriving in Detroit, Michigan, the vice president said that fighting for voting rights, in her mind, was “as American as apple pie”.
Her comments came shortly after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the group of Texas lawmakers may meet with Biden administration personnel once they arrive in DC, where the group is hoping to drum up support for action at the federal level to protect voting rights.
Ms Harris praised the lawmakers for their “extraordinary courage and commitment,” and likened them to activists who fought to expand and protect the right to vote to women and minorities throughout US history.
“I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered” the vice president continued.
President Joe Biden is also set to deliver a major address on the issue on Tuesday. Democrats, particularly progressives, are pushing a pair of bills in Congress that would establish a mandatory nationwide early voting period, automatic voter registration, and restrict gerrymandering while also adding new ethics rules for federal officials.
The legislation is uniformly opposed by Republicans, who have led campaigns in state legislatures across the country to cut back on early voting, mail-in ballots, and other procedures related to voting at an unprecedented rate following their loss of the presidency in the 2020 election.
In Texas, Republicans are pushing a pair of bills that would institute new identification requirements for mail-in voting, ban the distribution of mail-in ballot applications, ban 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting, and institute new restrictions on helping others vote, a provision opposed by some advocates for Americans with disabilities.
Democratic lawmakers in the state put out an announcement confirming their decision to flee the state on Monday to prevent a quorum from being reached in the special legislative session called by Gov Greg Abbott to pass the bills.
Their move could mean that some lawmakers risk arrest if they remain in the state, or upon their return. Republican lawmakers, who control both chambers of the legislature, have the option to ask a state law enforcement agency to compel them to return to the chamber.
“We now take the fight to our nation’s capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” it read.
“There’s no democracy without the right to vote. Once again, Democrats are standing strong and united to defend the right of every eligible Texas voter to make their voice heard. I’m incredibly proud of our Texas Democratic lawmakers, who continue to fight relentlessly on behalf of Texans, voters, and our democracy,” added the state Democratic Party chair, Gilberto Hinojosa.