Pelosi Floor Speech on the Rule Providing for Consideration of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act

January 12, 2022
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of the rule providing for consideration of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for the recognition.  I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts, the distinguished Chair of the Rules Committee, for his leadership in bringing this important legislation to the Floor tonight – to enable us to fight for voting rights tomorrow when we vote for the legislation.  Many of us will have more to say tomorrow on the substance of that bill, but I just want to place this action in time.

 Today is an historic day, because we are taking a big step forward.  Thanks to the leadership of the distinguished Majority Leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, we are in position now to take the step forward with this rule to enable us to debate the bill tomorrow to fight for voting rights.

 Yesterday, and on Monday, two days ago – no, it was yesterday – President Biden made it crystal clear that the Senate must find a path forward to enshrine critical voting rights legislation into law.  That was yesterday.  Today, House Democrats will take another step to defend our democracy with legislation called the Freedom To Vote: John [R.] Lewis Act.  We’ll send it to the Senate for urgent consideration after we debate it and vote on it tomorrow.

I want to thank John Sarbanes of Maryland.  This is a bill that we have voted on in this Congress, in the last Congress, but also in this Congress.  In this House of Representatives, we voted [on the] For The People Act, which is the essence of the legislation we are considering now.  It was H.R. 1 in the House.  In addition to that, it is attached to H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voter – it’s more than that, it's the John R. Lewis Voter Advancement Act, which will be, as I said, part of this package tomorrow.   

So, because of the leadership of Chuck Schumer, John Sarbanes, Zoe Lofgren, Terri Sewell, who has carried this legislation again and again, Mr. Butterfield, the Chair – the distinguished Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Nadler.  So many people. 

We've had this debate over and over again in the House and in this Congress.  So, when I hear people say, ‘Oh, here comes a bill we've never seen before.’  No, you – we have voted in the House on this already.  We had a vote in the House on this already, and this is as it comes back to us this time from the, from the Senate. 

Yesterday, as I said, the President made it crystal clear that we have to get something done.  Again, Mr. McGovern is giving us that opportunity now.  So, I just want to say that – why this is necessary, and it has been said in your Committee this evening, but let me just be brief, because the night is getting on.  

Since we passed the bill before, and in the course of the year, the Republicans have continued their assault on voting rights in our country.  Nearly 400 bills introduced, 20 of them enacted into law, which not only suppress the vote, making it harder for people of color, people with disabilities, people to vote, but also legislation to nullify the vote.  ‘It doesn't matter how people vote.  It matters how the people we appoint decide how they vote.’ 

That is not a democracy.  It strikes to the heart of a democracy, strikes to the heart of democracy, and that is why this legislation is even more necessary than when it was first introduced.  It is a continuation, in legislatures across the country, of the assault that was made on this Capitol – to undermine the Constitution, the Capitol, the Congress and our democracy on January 6th.  And, as the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts mentioned earlier, that there was not even a vote to accept, on the part of many on the other side of the aisle, the results of that election. 

I thank you not only for your leadership tonight, but for that dangerous day, for you to take over the chair after the security spirited me out because of threats on my life.  

So, again, this is urgent.  It's a repeat of what we have done and done, again and again.  We're glad that the Senate is ready to receive this next iteration with very little change from what we had passed before.  

In Georgia, when President Biden delivered a clarion call to defend our democracy, he said: ‘I will not yield.  I will not flinch.  I will defend your rights.’  He said to folks, ‘To vote and defend our Democracy against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’  And so the question is, he said, ‘Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?’

Well, we’ll see.  We have the question of the filibuster.  Now, until we had this debate on this voting rights, and it's become – filibuster’s become a discussion, what was your view of what that word meant?  When somebody said they're going to filibuster something or they were engaged in a filibuster, you thought they were going to talk for a long time.  Filibuster: to talk for a long time.  Not to obstruct justice, not to obstruct debate, not to obstruct the majority to be able to take a vote, to discuss something.

By passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, the Democratic House will make clear that we in this House stand with the President, yes, but with the American people to fight for voting rights.  Nothing less is at stake than our democracy.  The sanctity of the vote, the integrity of our elections – that is what is at stake.

So, I thank all of our colleagues who participate in this for their committed leadership For The People in the fight for voting rights.

And, with that urgent I vote and yield back the balance of my time.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.