Harris pushed hard for voting rights — then hit a brick wall

On Friday, her work and that of the administration, as a whole, hit a brick wall as two moderate Senate Democrats said they would not support weakening the rules of the chamber to pass the party's two election reform priorities. It has left Harris with an uncertain path forward.

Harris is unbowed by the setbacks, according to her aides and advisers. She has solidified her standing in the White House with her more aggressive posture and public persona. Allies say she's finally getting a chance to succeed.

"You can't get out front of the White House when you're the vice president," said one of the vice president's most vocal supporters. It's difficult. The only concern I've ever raised is that with the president being very clear about his position on the issue, it gives her the tools necessary to be successful. You want to make sure she's not handicapped.

The failure to move voting rights legislation raises questions about how effective Harris was. A person familiar with the thinking of the administration argued that substantial progress had been made even without legislation. There were very few Senate Democrats who supported doing this on the filibuster. Right? Two people don't. The person said that it was a significant shift.

The expectation is that Harris and the administration will continue to push for legislative progress and meet with key stakeholders. A White House official said that Harris' team is formulating plans on what next steps look like and that both public and private engagements for Harris are being discussed.

Harris told reporters that they keep fighting for voting rights. We are committed to seeing this through. She noted that she had a lot of discussions about how we can see this through.

At a time of transition for her office, the rise of voting rights to the top of the administration's agenda comes at a time when a lot of her aides are leaving. There were disagreements among the staff over how big a public presence the vice president could have had in the early months, with some aides fearing that she was adrift and struggling with her portfolio items.

Her recent activity has made a lot of people feel better about the issue of voting rights, as they felt that President Joe Biden had not focused enough on the issue.

I made the distinction very clear. I don't have anything bad to say about VP Harris, I think he's the president and this has to fall on Biden's lap. LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, who was based in Atlanta, chose not to attend the Biden event, said that she had been clear that she saw this as a core and important issue. I don't let Biden off the hook. Is Biden the one who came to the table with the Senate experience, four decades of being in the Senate?

Harris was thrust into a legislative initiative that was seemingly going nowhere. She made a passionate plea for voting rights legislation during an interview on Thursday, blaming both Republicans and members of her own party for standing in the way of changing the Senate rules to get election reform passed by simple-majority vote.

She said that anyone who takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution should not be excused from that responsibility.

The call out of the two moderate Democrats did not deviate from the rhetoric that the White House has been using. It turned heads just hours before the Senate was going to consider changing its rules. When Biden went to talk to the Senate Democratic caucus, he was alone. Harris didn't attend the meeting after he met with Manchin and Sinema.

White House aides cautioned against reading into Harris' absence, noting Biden's standing relationships with the two senators over the last year of meetings and negotiations over his other priorities. The fact that the president gave Harris the power to lead on voting rights is proof that he valued her.

They showed that they are a team. Melanie Campbell is the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. It is important that it is seen as one administration. Whatever is happening, her role in that is elevated.

The last few weeks on the voting rights front have become, to a degree, an example of her stint as vice president, one defined by sharp moments, mishaps, public drama, private work and a touch of bad political luck.

There is a concern in Harrisworld that she could be blamed by the press if voting rights legislation fails to get through the Senate. The civil rights community is pleased with Harris' work and argue that the issue isn't a lack of effort but the intractability from moderate Democrats on filibuster reform alongside zero Republican support. The thinking is that others will take the fall.

Sellers said that she had done the work. Manchin and Sinema have an intellectual dishonesty about our country's history.

Laura Barrn-Lpez contributed to the report.