Harris emphasizes urgent need for voting rights legislation in MLK Day remarks
"Today, our freedom to vote is under assault," Harris said.
Vice President Kamala Harris demanded action on voting rights Monday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., remembering the iconic civil rights leader amidst the administration's latest push for voting rights legislation.
Harris, who spoke virtually from Washington at an event hosted by the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia, called for the Senate to "do its job" and pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
"We must not give up and we must not give in. To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote, for freedom for all," Harris said.
Harris' remarks came in the aftermath of a difficult week in which the administration was dealt a severe blow in their voting rights pursuit. The John R. Lewis Act has provisions that would bolster voting by mail, prevent future restrictions on voting, and do more that proponents say would strengthen voting rights.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) last week reiterated their refusal to create a carveout to circumvent a Republican filibuster on the issue. With no Republican support for the bill, circumventing the filibuster was seen as the only remaining path to pass the bill in the Senate.
Harris insisted the fight would continue and pointed to King's lifelong pursuit of justice in the face of extreme adversity as inspiration for those working to secure voting rights legislation today.
"Dr. King pushed even as his character was maligned; he pushed even as his family's life was threatened. He pushed even as his own life was in jeopardy. He pushed for racial justice, for economic justice, and for the freedom that unlocks all others: the freedom to vote," Harris said.
"Today, our freedom to vote is under assault. In Georgia and across our nation, anti-voter laws are being passed that could make it more difficult for as many as 55 million Americans to vote -- 55 million Americans. That is one out of six people in our country," she continued.
Harris said the "assault" on voting "will be felt by every American" and that Americans could face consequences for generations if attacks on voting rights continue.
"So many in this state have worked tirelessly to protect our democracy," Harris said of Georgia, adding that Georgians had registered voters and gone door-to-door "to get out the vote."
She said, "And last week, the president and I visited Atlanta to deliver a message: It is time for the United States Senate to do its job."
Later in the day, asked by reporters at an in-person service event at a Washington, D.C., nonprofit about what she would say to Manchin and Sinema, Harris evoked the Constitution but did not mention either senator by name.
"As I've said before, there are a hundred members of the United States Senate. And I'm not going to absolve, nor should any of us, absolve any member of the United States Senate from taking on a responsibility to follow through on the oath that they all took to support and defend the Constitution the United States," Harris said.
Biden marked the day in earlier pre-recorded remarks delivered for the National Action Network on Monday morning.
"In his time, through his courage, his conviction and his commitment, Dr. King held a mirror up to America and forced us to answer the question: Where do we stand? Whose side are we on? We're in another moment right now where the mirror is being held up to America," Biden said.
"The question is being asked again: Where do we stand? Whose side are we on? Will we stand against voter suppression -- yes or no? Will we stand against election subversion -- yes or no? We stand up for an America where everyone is guaranteed the full protections and the full promise of this nation -- yes or no?"
ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.