Georgia Rep. John Lewis, one of the civil rights movement’s few remaining living legends, successfully prevented an effort by a House colleague and fellow Georgia lawmaker Paul Broun to defund the Justice Department’s ability to enforce Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent discrimination against minority voters. The provision requires several mostly Southern states to pre-clear any changes to their election laws because of their history of discrimination.
Broun’s reasoning was that the provision had become “antiquated” and “outdated.” But during a late Wednesday night session on the House floor, Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King and still bears the physical scars of Bloody Sunday, in a fiery speech denounced the amendment as “shameful.”
“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 an amendment,” Lewis said, recalling how people, including friends and colleagues of his, died for the right to vote and the hoops Blacks had to jump through to cast ballots. “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 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
A chastised Broun withdrew the amendment, and issued an apology. But he apparently intends to revisit the issue.
“He felt as though it deserved ample debate time where all members could participate rather than during a closed-off discussion in the late hours of the evening,” the lawmaker’s spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti said Thursday. “Dr. Broun looks forward to having this debate in the future.”
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(Photo: Courtesy CSPAN)