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Black leaders losing patience with Biden over failure to advance voting rights

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Civil rights leaders and members of the Texas Legislature stand beneath the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. (file photo)

US President Joe Biden has called for patience as Black leaders and advocates grow increasingly frustrated with the Democratic administration amid a political stalemate on advancing voting rights legislation through a divided Congress.

"I know the progress hasn't been fast enough," Biden told hundreds of people gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. However, the president promised to keep the focus on "discrimination, racial discrimination and discriminatory laws."

Passing federal voting rights legislation, along with police reforms, was high on the list of Biden’s impressive agenda for Black Americans when he entered the White House in January.

However, none of the policy items have passed Congress yet and projections already paint a bleak prospect for Democrats in next year’s midterm elections.

African American leaders and voters are waiting to see how the president will wield the powers they say Black voters gave him.

“Don't forget that Black voters landed a victory for this President and this Congress, so don't fail us again,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) after a cloture vote on the Freedom to Vote Act failed on Wednesday.

It was the third time this year that Senate Democrats tried and failed to advance such a bill in response to balloting restrictions introduced in the wake of former President Donald Trump's claims of massive voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to Biden.

The White House acknowledged Thursday that there have been setbacks with both voting legislation and police reform talks, but promised the administration would advance policies important to the African American community.

“Our agenda for the Black community is not about one or two bills. Clearly those bills are critical and important, and we’re going to continue to work very hard towards them, but it is weaved throughout numerous policy initiatives, executive orders, legislation,” deputy press secretary Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Biden on Thursday singled out Martin Luther King Jr.'s native state of Georgia, which Trump claimed was stolen from him through voter fraud.

"Jim Crow in the 21st century is now a sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion," the president said, referring to 19th- and 20th-century laws that violated Black Americans' civil rights.

African Americans have traditionally voted for Democratic candidates in presidential elections. But Black leaders have frequently criticized Democratic politicians for courting their vote and promising systemic change and then failing to deliver once they get elected.


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