Wednesday night, Rep. Paul Broun tried to bring an amendment to the spending bill under consideration by the House to strip all funds appropriated to enforce Title V of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Coming from Broun, this is not much of a surprise. He has a record of being one of the most hateful legislators in the House, but this time John Lewis let him have it with both barrels.
Transcription via Think Progress:
It is hard, and difficult, and almost unbelievable that any Member — but especially a Member from the state of Georgia — would come and offer such amendment. There’s a long history in our country, especially in the 11 states that are old Confederacy — from Virginia to Texas — of discrimination based on race, on color. Maybe some of us need to study a little contemporary history dealing with the question of voting rights.
Just think, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it was almost impossible for many people in the state of Georgia, in the state of Alabama, in Virginia, in Texas, to register to vote, to participate in the democratic process. The state of Mississippi, for example, had a black voting age population of more than 450,000, and only about 16,000 were registered to vote. One county in Alabama, the county was more than 80 percent [black], and not a single registered African-American voter. People had to pass a so-called literacy test. . . . one man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. Another man was asked to count the number of jelly beans in a jar.
It’s shameful that you would come here tonight and say to the Department of Justice that you must not use one penny, one cent, one dime, one dollar, to carry out the mandate of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act.
. . . People died for the right to vote. Friends of mine. Colleagues of mine. I speak out against this amendment. It doesn’t have a place.
Shortly thereafter, Rep. Broun withdrew his amendment, offering an apology to his colleague. It is the very least he could do. Thank you, Rep. John Lewis, for standing up and telling it like it is.