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On MLK Day, Biden boosts voting rights

Vice President Joe Biden said Monday that the outcome of the immigration reform and income inequality debates “rests ultimately on the ballot box,” warning civil rights activists to keep fighting to restore the core of the Voting Rights Act.  

At the National Action Network's annual King Day Breakfast, Vice President Joe Biden takes aim at new laws making it more difficult to minorities to vote.

“I have to admit I never thought we’d be fighting the fight again on voting rights,” Biden said during remarks at the National Action Network's annual King Day Breakfast, saying that minorities could face a “hailstorm” of new laws that make voting more difficult.

The Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act last year, arguing that states and localities in certain regions should no longer need to obtain approval from the federal government before changing voting laws. Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a proposal that would require all states and localities to get preclearance for such changes if those areas have recent voting rights violations.

Biden urged attendees at the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life to “stem the tide” of efforts to restrict access to the ballot box as the Obama administration works to achieve its policy goals.

Saying the United States is “on the brink” of major immigration reform and a minimum wage hike, the vice president added that opponents should consider the debate over access to health care “over.”  

“It’s way past time that we stop arguing about whether every American has the right to adequate affordable health care. Thanks to Barack Obama that fight is over and we are not going back, period,” he said.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Biden appeared to joke that his own background doesn't preclude him from activism for minority rights. 

Spotting Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency in the audience, Biden said "Gina and I - we may not be black, but I tell you what, we're Irish and we know how to fight."