Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on 7th Anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder Decision
Jun 26, 2020
Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Leader Steny Hoyer, Whip James Clyburn and Chairman Jerry Nadler for a press conference marking the 7th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision and urging Senate to pass H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Sewell, daughter of Selma. Thank you so much for your leadership in bringing us together to acknowledge the seven year anniversary since that most unfortunate Supreme Court decision. You have given us a beautiful perspective just now of the history, some of the history. I want to add some to that.
Because of what happened in Selma, because of our colleague, John Lewis, who sacrificed everything, and it’s an honor to serve with him – I’m sure we know, we all agree it’s a great honor to call him colleague. He was there. He helped make all of this happen so that on – 55 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson urged passage of the Voting Rights Act on the House Floor. As he said then, ‘This is the first nation in the history of the world founded with a purpose: all men are created equal.’
Today, this week, we gather to mark seven years since the Supreme Court issued it’s Shelby decision and dealt a grave blow to that purpose. But, just before that, in February 2013, many of us were gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court. That was the day of the oral argument on this Supreme Court case: Shelby v. Holder. It was an honor to be with the Congressional Black Caucus as those arguments were taking place, the oral argument.
Following that gathering on the steps, we went on over – we came back over to the Capitol to dedicate the statue of Rosa Parks, an African American woman in the Capitol of the United States, not only adding to the diversity of those statues, but upgrading the quality of acknowledgment there.
Republicans showed up that day, spoke with all of us about how exciting it was to have Rosa Parks there. We thought, perhaps, this is an indication of shared values. But it hasn’t been.
On March 7th, 2015 – 2015, two years later – we all went to Selma for the 50th anniversary of the voting rights – of the Selma march – excuse me, of the Selma march. President Barack Obama spoke. President George Bush spoke. Our Republican colleagues were just pushing themselves to the front of the line to be with John Lewis and everybody else. We thought, perhaps, this was an indication that they would support the Voting Rights Act. Basically, they said to us, ‘This is all you’re getting, our presence here.’ Big deal.
But, President Bush was there, rightfully so. He signed the Voting Rights Act, the bill that we put together in 2006, became law and he signed.
And, when that bill was voted on, as the Congresswoman Sewell said, it was bipartisan. We gathered – remember, Steny? Clyburn? We gathered, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, it was unanimous in the Senate and 400-something or 390-something in the House, bipartisan Voting Rights Act. We all walked out onto the steps of the Capitol to celebrate the passage of that bill that President Bush would sign and rightfully participate in the anniversary of Selma. Shelby v. Holder. H.R. 4 – section four to be ‘fixed’ because of some conception that the Supreme Court had.
Congresswoman Sewell has worked very hard on this issue. She is, as I said, a daughter of Selma. She acknowledged how this all happened, the march and all the rest. Young people, young people, kids speaking out, actually being part of the inspiration for the march so that their teachers and their parents could have the right to vote. The young people led in this.
So, when the Court did what it did, they said, well, this that and the other thing. So, time was spent very carefully by Congresswoman Sewell to establish the constitutional basis for H.R. 4. To remove all doubt in the Supreme Court’s mind that this would pass muster.
I want to salute, also, Jerry Nadler, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee. As well as Marcia Fudge who was very instrumental in having hearings all over the country to demonstrate the need for this Voting Rights Act.
And so here we are. Seven years since the passage of it. Showing up at Rosa Parks. Showing up at the 50th anniversary of Selma. Saying all these things, but really dishonoring the spirit of it all.
So, let’s hope that it would return to the bipartisanship that it has had since Lyndon Johnson. Since George Bush, President George Bush signed it into law. Since that 50th anniversary of Selma. And let us insist that H.R. 4 be taken up in the United States Senate. Because when we say to people who turn out, ‘Your vote is your voice,’ we have to remove every obstacle to participation to that voice, to that voice. Passing H.R. 4 will do just that.
And I thank again, the daughter of Selma who has hosted us there so many times, but every day inspires us with the spirit of Selma and the legislation to remove all obstacles to participation.
With that, I’m pleased to yield to the distinguished Democratic Leader of the House, Mr. Hoyer, who has been a champion on this issue for many years. And it’s an honor to be here, also, with the distinguished Whip, Democratic Whip of the House, Mr. Clyburn, who was there for all the civil rights movement. So we are very blessed in the Congress to have such commitment to democracy. Mr. Hoyer.
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