Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge, Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, Congressman John Lewis, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Rubén Hinojosa, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Judy Chu, and Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul M. Grijalva at a press conference at the Supreme Court to highlight the importance of protecting the right to vote for all Americans. Below is a transcript of the Leaders remarks:
“Thank you Madam [Chairwoman Marcia Fudge of the Congressional Black Caucus], thank you for bringing us together today on the steps of the Supreme Court. In a year when we are observing the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, on a day when we are dedicating a statue to Rosa Parks in the Capitol of the United States, at a time when the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments about the right to vote in America.
“In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared to the Congress and the American people that, in our democracy, ‘the most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders.’ He reminded us that ‘the history of this country, in large measure, is the history of the expansion of that right.’ He urged us to overcome a legacy of bigotry, racism, and discrimination – and we did overcome: by making the Voting Rights Act the law of the land and by opening the doors of democracy to millions of our fellow Americans.
“In that same tradition, we have come together four times to reauthorize and preserve this landmark law – succeeding each time, in a bipartisan way, under Republican Presidents. In 2006, the last time the bill came up for consideration, we worked across the aisle, working with Speaker Hastert to bring this bill to the floor, strengthening the Voting Rights Act in a bipartisan way. And in the future, and now, we hope that, that will always be the case.
“Voting rights is not about any party; it is not a matter for partisan debate; it is not an issue for just Democrats or Republicans. Voting rights is about who we are as Americans. It is about the cause of equality, our nation’s heritage and our hope. It is about the strength of our democracy.
“Today, we have come together on the steps of the Supreme Court with a clear message: the right to vote must be preserved; the right to vote must be protected; the right to vote must remain the cornerstone of our democracy. And that right to vote must be for all Americans.
“For our democracy, we must protect and defend the Voting Rights Act. For our democracy, we must block efforts to suppress the vote. For our democracy, we must answer President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address: to shorten lines at polling places, to ensure that all citizens can cast their ballots without obstruction or delay. And we must make sure that as we have eased the right to vote, that all votes are counted as cast. For our democracy, it is our responsibility to ensure that every citizen has the right to vote, every vote is counted as cast, as I said. It is our duty to uphold the vision of our founders: of a government determined by a vote of the people.
“Later this morning, as I mentioned, we will gather to dedicate a statue to the great Rosa Parks, a brave woman who stood up for civil rights by sitting down on a Montgomery bus. The movement she ignited and the cause she inspired, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others – some of them here, and others, John Lewis, Mr. Clyburn, imagine that they are serving in the Congress, and so many here – Mr. Conyers, our former Chair, maybe future Chair of the Judiciary Committee, well I – the list goes on and on, the movement Rosa Parks ignited, inspired, she inspired, led Dr. King and countless others to march for their rights and drove President Johnson and Congress to secure our most basic rights.
“Today, the Supreme Court must choose to follow the same footsteps by upholding the Voting Rights Act, securing the promise of equality and justice, and reinforcing the cornerstones of our democracy.
“I thank you for allowing me to be a part of this. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. And God bless the Supreme Court.”