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Harris says Biden took 'courageous step' in voting rights speech

Despite an unclear path for voting legislation on Capitol Hill, Harris said in an interview with NBC News that the Biden administration "will not give up."

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris, in an interview with NBC News that aired on Thursday morning, pushed back against Republican criticism that President Joe Biden's speech in Atlanta on voting rights was overly divisive.

Asked to respond to comments from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah — who on Wednesday said that Biden was going "down the same tragic road taken by President Trump, casting doubt on the reliability of American elections" — Harris said that the president took the "right and courageous step to say that Senate rules should not get in the way of protecting the American people's access to the ballot."

"And he compared this time to a previous time in our history, which is apt for comparison," Harris said in the interview that was conducted on Wednesday.

In his speech on Tuesday, Biden framed the decision on voting rights legislation as a choice between "Dr. King or George Wallace."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told Democratic colleagues in a letter Wednesday that he will force a procedural vote on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Republicans have remained unified in their opposition to the two voting rights bills, and once they are filibustered, "we will need to change the Senate rules as has been done many times before," Schumer said in the letter, which was obtained by NBC News.

But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have expressed an unwillingness to changing the filibuster. Without their votes, Democrats would be unable to change Senate rules to get around the 60-vote threshold.

"I don't think anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy, especially when they took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution," Harris told NBC News when asked about Manchin and Sinema.

Pressed on whether party leadership could get Democrats on board by Monday, the deadline that Schumer had initially set to move on the legislation, Harris said "it's not over."

"And we don't give up. We don't give up and we will not give up," she said.

Biden is scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats on Thursday on Capitol Hill to discuss voting rights.

In the interview with NBC, Harris also said that the 500 million at-home Covid tests that the Biden administration said they would make available for free could be sent to directly to households "by next week." The White House later clarified that the tests would be sent out later this month, not next week.

Asked whether she and Biden would run on the same ticket again in 2024, Harris said: "We are thinking about today."

She said she had not read a recent column arguing that Biden should tap Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2024, saying "I really could care less about the high class gossip on these issues."