By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden, standing beneath the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, called for patience on Thursday amid a political stalemate on getting Democratic proposals on voting rights and police reform 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 massive granite monument to the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968.
But Biden said he would keep the focus on "discrimination, racial discrimination and discriminatory laws."
The Democratic president has set a strong agenda for Black Americans, but since taking office in January has not been able to push through voting rights and police reform laws in the face of solid Republican opposition.
Biden spoke a day after U.S. Senate Republicans blocked https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senate-republicans-poised-stop-democrats-voting-rights-bill-2021-10-20 a voting rights bill. It was the third time this year that Senate Democrats had tried to advance such a bill in response new state balloting restrictions fueled by Republican former President Donald Trump's false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.
Biden on Thursday made a rare allusion to those claims, saying legislators in Republican-led states that have passed restrictive voting laws were "following my predecessor, the last president, into a deep, deep black hole and abyss."
He singled out Martin Luther King Jr.'s native Georgia, a state that Trump falsely said he lost due to voter fraud.
"This struggle is no longer just over who gets to vote, and making it easier for eligible people to vote. It's about who gets to count the votes, or whether they should count at all," Biden said.
"Jim Crow in the 21st century is now a sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion," Biden said, referring to 19th- and 20th-century laws that violated Black Americans' civil rights.
Biden appeared at the memorial tribute with Vice President Kamala Harris - the first woman, Black and Asian American to win the United States' second highest office.
The memorial stands near where King gave his famed "I have a dream" speech in 1963 during the modern-day struggle for civil rights.
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)