Last weekend, more than 20 Republican lawmakers traveled to Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march that spurred the nation to pass the Voting Rights Act and many more took to social media to salute the marchers who braved discrimination and violent brutality to demand their right to vote.
Since the VRA was gutted by the Supreme Court, new efforts to suppress the vote have left our country with the most discriminatory voting landscape in half a century.
“Words alone will not restore the legacy of Selma,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Commemoration requires legislation. We urge all members of Congress who made the trip, and who learned the value of voting rights in this country, to take action.”
Several Republican lawmakers who traveled to Selma expressed their willingness to support or consider supporting legislation to restore the VRA. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told a reporter that “because of this trip, I will be more interested,” while Sen. Susan Collins of Maine penned a column about her pilgrimage to Selma, and said that the trip will lead her to take a closer look at the Supreme Court’s VRA decision. In the House, Rep. Tom Reed of New York committed to co-sponsoring a VRA fix.
Below is a selection of statements and social media posts from Republican congressional leadership and other members who traveled to Selma. Now that these lawmakers have applauded the bravery that made the law possible, will they, too, commit to working to restore the VRA to honor the legacy of the Selma marchers?
House Speaker John Boehner
“Guided by their determination, inspired by their courage, and moved by their call for justice, let us honor their sacrifice by rededicating ourselves to the cause of freedom and equal opportunity for every American,” said Boehner in a statement.
We honor the brave foot soldiers of Selma who risked their lives to secure the blessings of liberty for all Americans http://t.co/rViUuXwZeL
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) March 7, 2015
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
We honor them for holding our nation to the highest ideals, ensuring the true existence of liberty and justice for all. #Selma50
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) March 7, 2015
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
In a statement, McConnell said “We honor those who marched that day, and we recommit ourselves to the task of building a society in which all men and women are treated equally.”
“It was an honor to stand side-by-side with my colleagues in Selma this weekend. The beauty of the American system is that we are a nation of laws, and everyone deserves equal protection under them,” said Emmer in a statement.
— Tom Emmer (@RepTomEmmer) March 8, 2015
“Fifty years ago, a generation of the 20th century’s bravest Americans fought for something they should never have had to fight for: basic freedom and equality before law,” said Mike Kelly.
“Men and women of all races stood up, against scorn, intimidation, and violence to uphold the truth of an idea that was laid out by America’s founders in the Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,’” said Gary Palmer.
Honored to stand with the Congressional delegation on steps of historic 16th Street Baptist pic.twitter.com/xEpyfmQwrb
— Gary Palmer (@USRepGaryPalmer) March 6, 2015
“I hope all Americans took a moment this weekend and reflected on the lasting achievements of Rep. Lewis and his fellow Civil Rights leaders,” said Hill.
— French Hill (@RepFrenchHill) March 7, 2015
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) March 7, 2015
Comstock issued a statement following her visit to Selma, saying that it gave her insight into the trials African Americans went through during the Civil Rights movement.
“Though injustices still pervade our neighborhoods and cities, we celebrate how far we’ve come. And we remain committed to bending the arc towards justice,” said Cruz in a statement.
Bloody Sunday was an assault on the dignity of each man, woman, and child, and on the rights bestowed on them by God alone #Selma50
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 7, 2015
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) March 7, 2015
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) March 6, 2015
— Senator Roy Blunt (@RoyBlunt) March 7, 2015
After Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Selma marchers, Sessions issued a statement, saying, “This dramatic event captured the attention of the nation, led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and was a key event in ending the systematic denial of the right of African-American citizens to vote in many areas.”
I’m pleased to cosponsor S. 527 to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Foot Soldiers of the Voting Rights Movement. pic.twitter.com/uZDSmCfk4E
— Richard Shelby (@SenShelby) March 6, 2015
Burr also tweeted about awarding the Congressional Medal to the Selma marchers: