Vice President Harris Hints That She Has Discussed Filibuster Changes With Senators With a major voting bill stalled, the vice president told NPR that she won't negotiate changes to Senate rules publicly, "but I'm certainly having conversations with folks."

Vice President Harris Hints That She Has Discussed Filibuster Changes With Senators

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President Biden says the U.S. is facing its most significant test of democracy since the Civil War. In Philadelphia yesterday, he gave a speech criticizing Republican efforts to change election rules and restrict voting.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It's unrelenting. And we're going to challenge it vigorously.

PFEIFFER: Vice President Kamala Harris is leading the White House efforts on voting. And she spoke yesterday with NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid, who joins us this morning. Hi, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Good morning.

PFEIFFER: So as you know, the Democrats have a voting bill. It's pretty far-reaching. But it's stuck in Congress. So given that, what does the Biden administration think it can do on voting rights?

KHALID: Well, Sacha, that's actually the very first question I asked the vice president. And she told me there's a lot that, in their view, they can still do at the ground level, like coalition-building.

KAMALA HARRIS: It includes resources and attention being given to registering people to vote, to educating people about what's at stake and what is actually happening in terms of these threats to their rights. It's about turning out voters.

KHALID: And she said it's also about voter protection. Throughout our interview, it really sounded like the Biden administration is banking on voter turnout as the solution to counter GOP laws in states that are restricting votes.

PFEIFFER: Give us a sense of what else the two of you talked about.

KHALID: We also talked about how the Senate filibuster might affect this all in the courts and how this would factor into the administration's thinking. Let's listen to a chunk of the interview.

You know, Congressman Jim Clyburn, who, we should point out, is a good friend of the White House, is calling for a tweak to the filibuster. He said not to end it entirely, but to carve out an exception that could allow Democrats to pass voting rights legislation with a simple majority. He told Politico that he actually explicitly shared his thinking on this with you. So I want to ask, do you support that idea? Do you think it's something that could work?

HARRIS: Well, here's what I'll say. I believe that of all of the issues that the United States Congress can take up, the right to vote is the right that unlocks all the other rights. And for that reason, it should be one of its highest priorities. Now, the members of the Senate are going to have to address this. And we're going to continue to work to find a path forward, no matter how difficult. And obviously, it's going to require all the Democrats to - in the Senate to agree with that approach.

KHALID: Is it an approach that you've been advocating for at all just amongst your former colleagues in the Senate that maybe it is worth carving out an exception for voting rights?

HARRIS: I mean, I'm not going to kind of negotiate with - sorry, but I don't mean this in any offense. But I'm not going to negotiate this way. But I'm certainly having conversations with folks.

KHALID: OK. I wanted to ask about the courts. Are you concerned that the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act means that the DOJ suit against Georgia's voting restrictions could be, in some way, doomed given the Supreme Court decision?

HARRIS: I mean, look; since 2013 with Shelby v. Holder and now this most recent case, we know that we are up against some very serious obstacles. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to address the disparities that we have known have existed and still exists in our country. And so, yeah, this - what the Supreme Court has done, it does present a real challenge for us. But I applaud, for example, the DOJ under Merrick Garland for taking the initiative that they've taken. There is active litigation happening around the country. And I applaud all of those folks, in particular those who are lending their pro bono expertise to this issue. As I said at the beginning of our conversation, we have to address this issue on many levels. And it will be litigation, legislation. It will be activating the people. It will be about informing the people about their rights, organizing, registering folks to vote.

KHALID: The vice president also said it's important to educate voters about laws that would potentially restrict the right to vote.

HARRIS: I do believe that in many of these states, they are trying to make it more difficult for people to vote so that they won't vote. And this is then about attempts to take the power from the people. And we all need to stand and say, we will not allow this to happen on our watch.

PFEIFFER: Asma, because you cover the White House, you'll be covering this for quite a while. I'm wondering what sort of your main thought was leaving this interview about the administration's efforts to combat voter restrictions?

KHALID: Well, I think it'll be key to see how they convinced people to participate in the very elections that they're also saying are under threat. You know, we heard the president yesterday refer to some of the GOP changes as, quote, "election subversion." But I will say, Sacha, as this is going on, they're going to continue to face pressure from Democrats on the left who want changes to the filibuster, and who, frankly, don't think that speeches are voter registration drives are enough.

PFEIFFER: Asma Khalid, thank you very much.

KHALID: My pleasure.

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