Hundreds of religious leaders demanding that Biden and other Democrats do more to do

“We cannot be clearer: you must act now to protect the freedom to vote of every American without interference and with the confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored,” the leaders said. said in a letter which was obtained by CNN and made public later on Thursday. “Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the top priority of the administration and Congress.”

The letter, which was originally addressed only to Biden and the Senate Democrats, but was later expanded to become an appeal to the entire chamber, comes as civil rights leaders and members of the Congressional The Black Caucus are increasing pressure on the Biden administration to pass voting rights legislation. after Republicans blocked two Democrat-led measures.

Congressional Black Caucus chair Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio, returned to Washington on Wednesday to hold an emergency meeting with the rest of the caucus, a source close to the planning of the meeting told CNN.

The push by religious leaders comes a week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s family called for “no celebration” of MLK Day – a federal holiday on the third Monday in January commemorating the rights icon’s birthday civic – without the passage of voting rights legislation. It also follows another effort by a group of young Americans who went on a 15-day hunger strike to demand action on the issue that ended earlier this week.

Martin Luther King III and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, organized the letter with several faith-based organizations. The African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and Faith in Public Life are among the organizers.

The religious leaders who signed the letter are from Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions, including Reverend Canon Leonard L. Hamlin Sr. of the Washington National Cathedral, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg of the National Council of Jewish Women, and Rabbi Charles Kroloff , former president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

“We should be in a phase of extending, protecting and preserving the right to vote and that is why the redress must come to the federal government,” Martin Luther King III told CNN, noting that more than 30 projects of law restricting the vote were introduced. in state legislatures.

“This relic must disappear”

Leaders also called for passage of the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, the two bills that Senate Republicans blocked, writing that “nothing – including systematic obstruction “should not stand in the way of the measures.

“We believe that the filibuster should be abolished,” King told CNN, adding that it had been used to block key measures such as the antilynching legislation and civil rights legislation. “This relic has to go. It’s really unfortunate that we have to have this discussion this time.… It should have been done already.”

Democrats have been frustrated by the lack of progress on some measures, including voting rights legislation, and many have called for eliminating or amending the filibuster. But they do not have the votes to end the reign amid a slim majority and opposition within their own party. The Senate filibuster rule requires 60 votes to advance most laws, and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are against changing the rule to pass a law on the Senate. right to vote.

Sinema, who says she supports both bills, also supports the rule “to protect the country from repeated sweeping reversals in federal policy that would cement uncertainty, deepen divisions and further erode Americans’ confidence in our government. “said spokesperson John LaBombard. A declaration.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York spoke about passing a voting rights bill next year in a private conference call with other Democrats on Tuesday night and said that “the foundation of our democracy – free and fair elections – is at stake,” a Democratic source told CNN.

“We need – for the sake of our democracy – to ensure that the Senate can debate and come to a final conclusion on voting rights legislation this Congress. And soon,” Schumer said, according to the source.

That same night, Beatty asked the Senate, who is on recess for the holidays, to meet again to “send meaningful voting rights legislation” to Biden’s office.
Biden, who has said he’s ready to change the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, also vowed last week that he would continue to fight for voting rights, telling graduates of South Carolina State University that “this battle is not over” and urging lawmakers to pass the two voting bills blocked by Senate Republicans.

“We will continue the fight until we have finished it, and you will continue the fight, and we badly need your help,” he said during the graduation ceremony at the historically black university.

A deeper message than voting rights

As Biden and other Democrats pledge to continue fighting for the right to vote, religious leaders say lawmakers need to do more than just make promises. The Kings believe the President and Congress must do their utmost to ensure that there is a victory over the voting rights legislation.

“We have seen what happens when the White House and Congress put all of their power and effort into something that they support. We have seen it with the infrastructure bill,” said Arndrea Waters King to CNN, adding that this is why they and other activists will do it. cross symbolic bridges on MLK Day weekend. “We are physically crossing these bridges to say that you have stood up for the bridges, now is the time to stand up for the people.”

Dr Stephany Spaulding, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the letter sent another message besides protecting voting rights.

“Deeper than that is the reality that we can no longer continue to harness the life and pain of our communities,” Spaulding told CNN. “Every two to four years we see politicians come into sacred space, into our congregations, make promises to our members and say how life in this kingdom will improve for our congregations and our members. And then we find ourselves in times like this, where we are on the verge of a huge failure. ”

She continued, “As sacred as our confidence in them as politicians is, it is also sacred for them to stand up for the righteousness they speak of.”

This story has been updated to reflect the publication of the letter and its distribution to the entire United States Senate.

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Sam Fossum, Eva McKend, Lauren Fox and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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