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Harris meets with expelled Black Democratic lawmakers in Nashville

President Joe Biden on Friday spoke with all three Tennessee Democrats who were targeted for expulsion by Republicans and invited them to the White House.
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Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday traveled to Nashville to meet with three Tennessee Democrats a day after state GOP lawmakers ousted two Black Democratic members for protesting against gun violence on the chamber floor.

Harris met state Rep. Gloria Johnson and former Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson a day after all three faced expulsion votes from their Republican colleagues for participating in an unauthorized but peaceful protest in the Tennessee General Assembly. Johnson, who is white, is the only member of the group who survived her vote.

During remarks at Fisk University, Harris said the three Democrats were "channeling" the voices of their constituents during last week's protest.

"A democracy says you don't silence the people. You do not stifle the people, you don't turn off their microphones when they are speaking about the importance of life and liberty," Harris said.

Harris' visit to Nashville, which was not on her official White House schedule released Thursday night, came the same day that President Joe Biden held a conference call with the three Democrats.

“Earlier today, I spoke to Reps. Jones, Pearson, and Johnson to thank them for their leadership and courage in the face of a blatant disregard of our nation’s democratic values," Biden wrote alongside an image on Instagram of a video call with them. "Our country needs to take action on gun violence — and to do that we need more voices like theirs speaking out.”

The White House said that during the call, Biden thanked the lawmakers for "their leadership in seeking to ban assault weapons and standing up for our democratic values," and invited them to the White House. No date was announced.

Biden also reissued a call for congressional action, tweeting that Congress "must ban" assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and require background checks for gun sales.

Harris made similar remarks in Nashville.

"Let’s not fall for the false choice. We suggest you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want reasonable gun safety laws. We can and should do both," she said.

"Have the courage to act, instead of the cowardice to not allow debate and to not allow a discussion on the merits of what is at stake. Courage. You can’t call yourself a leader, if you don’t have the courage to know what is right and act on it regardless of the popularity of the moment," Harris said.

State legislators voted Thursday on resolutions that accused each of the three Democrats of engaging in “disorderly behavior” and purposely bringing “disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives” during protests against gun violence on the House floor last week.

Following a shooting that left three children and three adults dead at The Covenant School in Nashville, the trio led supporters in calling for stricter gun safety measures. They used a bullhorn, which violated House chamber rules.

Biden said in a statement Thursday night that the expulsion of the two lawmakers who engaged in a peaceful protest was "shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent."

"Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee," said Biden.