Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday likened a group of Texas Democrats who flew to DC on a private jet to avoid voting on a Republican election reform bill to abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the women’s suffrage movement.
Harris said during a meeting with disability advocates that the legislators made a “great sacrifice” — as Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) threatens to jail them for impeding legislative business.
“They took bold, courageous action in line with the legacy of everyone from Frederick Douglass, who is over my right shoulder, when he fought for the right of black men to vote in America, to the legacy that includes all those women who marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for women’s right to vote to all of those folks who shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to make sure that we would in 1965 pass the Voting Rights Act,” Harris said.
She added: “Now we have in 2021 the Texas legislature, many of them, traveling to Washington, DC, at great sacrifice, both personally and political, to stand up for Americans’ right to vote unencumbered.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a Fox News interview that Harris was making a “ridiculous” analogy.
“It’s actually pretty ridiculous. Last I checked, the heroic civil rights protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge were not in a private chartered jet, they didn’t have a case of Miller Lite next to them,” Cruz said.
Harris made similarly effusive remarks while meeting with the Texas legislators on Tuesday to cheer on their mission to stall the Republican bill — calling their trip “as American as apple pie.”
The Texas state Senate passed the election reform bill on Tuesday night, but the legislature’s lower chamber does not have enough members willing to be present to allow for a quorum.
The bill in Texas would prevent local officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications and would require applicants to write their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on those applications. It would ban voting stations from remaining open for 24 hours and would ban drive-through voting. It would also state that partisan poll watchers are allowed to stand near election workers at polls.
Harris has attracted criticism for her messaging on voting rights, an issue area that President Biden tasked her with leading.
Harris was mocked for saying in an interview that aired Saturday that requiring a photo ID for absentee ballot requests was wrong due to a lack of photo-copy machines.
“There are a whole lot of people, especially people who live in rural communities, who don’t — there’s no Kinko’s, there’s no Office Max near them,” she said.
Election reform has become a base-rallying cause for both parties in Washington, though changes at the federal level are unlikely due to staunch Republican opposition and centrist Democratic senators refusing to end rules that require 60 votes to proceed with most bills.
Biden touted a stalled federal election overhaul bill during a Tuesday visit to Philadelphia, saying of state-level reform laws, “The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It’s unrelenting. We’re gonna challenge it vigorously.”
Critics say Biden has misrepresented Republican state policies. For example, The Washington Post, which endorsed him, awarded Biden “Four Pinocchios” in April for falsely describing a new Georgia law’s impact on voting hours.
The Georgia law doesn’t alter Election Day hours but expands early voting by adding a second mandatory Saturday. It affirms that counties can open for early voting on two Sundays and allows counties to extend early voting hours beyond normal business hours. Democrats oppose provisions that require a photo ID to get an absentee ballot, shorten the window of time to vote absentee and allow state officials to take over local election offices in response to alleged misconduct.
The stalled Democratic bill in Congress would require states to allow same-day voter registration and mandate two weeks of early voting.
The federal bill pushed by Biden and Harris also would make Election Day a holiday. Republicans say they strongly oppose provisions that would publicly finance political campaigns, allow so-called “ballot harvesting” and enhance the power of the Federal Election Commission.