Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) hosted a roundtable discussion with Rep. John Lewis this afternoon to discuss voting rights and comprehensive immigration reform with African-American and Hispanic media outlets. Below are excerpts. Click here for full remarks.
On Comprehensive Immigration Reform
“I think the President, if there is no action in the next few weeks, is going to be impelled by his moral responsibility to act himself. I’ve been talking about that now for a couple of weeks. Let me say something, on our side, it’s not just rhetoric. On our side, an overwhelming majority of Democrats helped pass the [Senate immigration reform] bill. We got 14 Republicans in the Senate. On this side, as Mr. Lewis just said, almost every Democrat is committed to voting for both [comprehensive immigration reform and the Voting Rights Amendment Act] – almost everyone. I won’t say it’s 100%, but it is 98% plus. That’s pretty much unanimous. So there is not rhetoric on our side. Yes, we are talking about it because you have to urge people – you know, if you urge Stephanie to do something, and she won’t do it and you don’t have the power to do it, you still need to talk and urge her to do it. If John Lewis got discouraged, or if Martin Luther King got discouraged, or if folks in Montgomery had gotten discouraged after 365 days, the bus boycott would not have been broken. They didn’t get discouraged. Immigration reform is going to pass. I can’t tell you when it’s going to pass, but it’s going to pass. Because we’re not going to give up until it does pass. On our side, the votes are there. We passed the bill when we controlled the United States Senate. [House Democrats] can’t put a bill on the Floor. We have almost every Democrat signed a discharge petition, so you’ve seen action on our side.”
On Voting Rights
“It is an unacceptable position in the United States of America to say I will not enfranchise another American citizen to vote because I believe they are not going to vote for me. That is not acceptable in America. The issue is not who people are going to vote for. It is the issue citizens have a principle, central right in a democracy to that vote which is their voice.”
“We talk about those who gave their blood and some gave their lives, as Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney gave their lives and others gave their lives, Emmitt Till. People at Lexington and Concord gave their lives. People pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the proposition that every person deserves a voice and they wanted the independence to express that voice. Now, they didn’t live it out perfectly. That’s what [Martin Luther] King talked about. They talked about it but there were still people of color who were slaves who could not vote, women could not vote. In some places, property owners could only vote – white property owners, male property owners. So, their expressions were not lived out perfectly. We talk about a more perfect union. What John Lewis and the people that he worked with and of his generation – and I’m of his generation … but the civil rights movement is what motivated me to get involved in politics. And it would be untrue to my getting involved in politics, if no matter that we’re discouraged – because you’re discouraged when things don’t happen that you think ought to happen and that you think are morally right to happen, you get discouraged – but as John says much more eloquently, you can’t give up. You can’t give up because this is what our democracy is about, that’s what America is about, and that’s what our service is in this body is about: making sure America is all that it can be. That’s what this is about.”