WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following remarks today on the House floor in favor of reauthorizing key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (as prepared for delivery):
"Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Republican leadership has brought this critical, bipartisan legislation to the Floor today. And, in particular, I want to commend Congressmen Watt, Sensenbrenner and Conyers for their leadership in crafting this legislation reauthorizing key provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Let me add, too, the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific Caucus deserve our thanks for their instrumental work on this bill and these issues.
"This legislation is a recognition that our democratic system is not perfect. While our nation has made tremendous strides in its ongoing quest to guarantee the ideals of our Constitution, the specter of discrimination still haunts us. And thus, we - the Members of this Congress - have a special responsibility to be vigilant in protecting the most fundamental expression of equality in our democracy: the right to vote.
"We must never forget: Our rights, though God-given, have been hard-won. Brave American citizens have been subjected to intimidation, violence and even death to secure the rights that are theirs under the Constitution.
"Our colleague, Congressman John Lewis, is a living testament to that bravery. Forty-one years ago, John and his fellow marchers were brutally attacked when they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in an effort to give meaning to that most famous phrase in our Declaration of Independence: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' They had the courage to challenge rank injustice. And, their peaceful actions then still inspire us today.
"Our nation did the right thing 41 years ago in enacting the Voting Rights Act. And, I believe it will do so again today.
"I urge my colleagues: Vote for the underlying bipartisan bill, and against the poison-pill amendments. We must keep faith with the promise and requirements of our Constitution. We must reauthorize these key provisions of the Voting Rights Act."