Watch Live: Biden denounces GOP-backed elections proposals in voting rights speech

Washington — President Biden on Tuesday is denouncing efforts by lawmakers in Republican-led states to impose new restrictions on voting in a major speech on voting rights. 

In remarks from Philadelphia, Mr. Biden is laying out what the White House describes as the “moral case” for protecting access to the ballot box and underscore the need for the administration to work alongside civil rights groups to “overcome the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.” The president began his speech by marking how safe and secure the 2020 election was, and how challenges to overturn election results were denied again and again. 

“The big lie is just that — a big lie,” Mr. Biden said. 

And he urged Congress, in perhaps his strongest language yet, to pass legislation to protect voting rights.

“We must pass the For the People Act. it’s a national imperative. We must also fight for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to restore and expand voting protections and prevent voter suppression,” the president said.  

Aboard Air Force One, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president will repeat that “these are the most egregious attempts to harm the integrity of our democracy since the Civil War.” The White House has offered that line before, despite efforts to thwart voting rights ahead of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Mr. Biden’s speech on the right to vote comes as the White House faces increasing pressure from voting rights groups and Democrats in Congress to more aggressively push back against efforts in GOP-led states to enact more restrictive voting laws.

Spurred by former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims the 2020 presidential election was rife with fraud, several red states like Florida and Georgia have already enacted new laws tightening their elections procedures, while others, like Texas, are debating new restrictions. Texas Democrats fled their state for Washington, D.C., on Monday night to block a vote on a sweeping elections bill during its special legislative session.

While the president has tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead his administration’s work to protect voting rights, Psaki said Mr. Biden believes he can use the bully pulpit to push for voting rights legislation and use the powers of the federal government to protect the right to vote.

“He’ll lay out the moral case for why denying the right to vote is a form of suppression and a form of silencing,” Psaki said of Mr. Biden’s remarks. “And how he will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal to continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of Americans to vote against the onslaught of voter suppression laws, based on a dangerous and discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in an assault on our Capitol.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill earlier this year attempted to pass a sweeping elections reform bill, but in June, Republicans in the Senate blocked the measure from advancing. Lawmakers are also working on legislation that would restore protections of the Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.

But complicating Democrats’ efforts to pass voting rights legislation is the need for any measure to garner support from at least 10 Republicans in the evenly split Senate to move forward.

A Supreme Court decision this month upholding two Arizona voting rules and placing new limits on another provision of the Voting Rights Act that bars elections procedures that discriminate on the basis of race has reignited calls from activists for Congress to act and the president to redouble his fight to protect access to the ballot box.