The veteran civil rights leader John Lewis handed a Georgian GOP representative his ass on a plate last week in the House.
Representative Paul Broun had tabled an amendment to end all funding for U.S. Department of Justice enforcement of Section Five of the Voting Rights Act. This requires states like Georgia to submit new election laws — last year’s statewide redistricting, for instance — for federal approval to ensure against disenfranchisement of minorities.
“It is also highly unfair,” Broun said, “allowing some states to make changes to their election laws while other states wishing to make the same changes are forced to jump through a bunch of hoops.”
Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was beaten during the Freedom Rides, then marched into the chamber. He called Broun’s proposal “shameful” and “unbelievable” coming from a member from Georgia.
“Maybe some of us need to study a little contemporary history dealing with the question of voting rights,” Lewis said. He then schooled Broun on how African-Americans were once forced to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap or number of jelly beans in a jar in order to register to vote.
“People died for the right to vote – friends of mine, colleagues of mine,” Lewis said. “I speak out against this amendment.”
The elder was then followed up by the younger. Jess Jackson Jr. then schooled them on how Section five was still needed because of the political redistricting tricks of both sides of the aisle.
Broun then retreated and withdrew the amendment, saying, “I apologize to any hurt feelings that anyone has, because I certainly wasn’t meaning to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Last week, the House passed a spending bill for the Department of Justice (DOJ) which blocked it from spending funds on challenging state immigration laws and that would limit DOJ’s ability to oppose the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in court proceedings.
Photo credit: CSPAN screengrab