Pelosi Remarks at Press Event Following Passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congresswoman Terri Sewell and House Democrats for a press conference following passage of H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. This key bill finally restores the full strength of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, after the Shelby County v. Holder and other disastrous Supreme Court decisions weakened the Act, unleashing a torrent of voter suppression laws across the country. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Congratulations to Terri Sewell for her relentless persistence, leadership and advocacy for this Voting Rights [Advancement] Act. Little did we know when it would be finally passed here in the House, that John would not be with us. But I do know that he is with us in spirit and, as Terri, Congresswoman Sewell said earlier, he's kind of looking down on us with great pride. Certainly pride in Terri Sewell.
The district that she represents is full of history, but she is making progress in addition to honoring that history. The district that she is – represents has seen great pain, but she wants to bring great change. And what better way than the vote, the vote to make things different. So much of the history, the protection of the vote happened in her state, in Alabama.
And I just want to tell this one story. I was recently, you know, the case is Shelby County – Shelby County v. Holder. That would be Eric Holder, the former Attorney General of the United States. Right now, he's working very hard to pass H.R. 4, H.R. 1, have fairness in our elections and the rest. And I saw him recently, and I said to his wife, Sharon, ‘Sharon, thank you for sharing Eric with us all, because the work he's doing for voting rights is just so remarkable, so remarkable.’
And she said to me, ‘You don't have to thank me for his doing that work.’ And she showed me a picture of Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act. Luci Baines is right behind him. She was with all of you last week – when she was here with you before she said, ‘I was standing behind my daddy when they did the Voting Rights –’
She’s standing right behind her daddy. But a few steps away is Sharon's sister. She was the first one, one of the first to try to go to college, University of Alabama, that George Wallace prevented. So she said, ‘You don't have to thank me for the work that he does for voting rights. It's completely in our family.’
So John Lewis was about connections, connections in how he fought the fight himself, revered the past that brought him to the place he was, and looked to the future. How proud he would be of our Texas friends who are here –
— for the courage they are showing for the vote.
So here we are, as Steny and others will attest, we were here when we passed the bill in ‘19 – excuse me, 2006, 2006. It was overwhelmingly bipartisan. In the House, nearly 400 votes. In the Senate, unanimous. And we walked down those steps in a bipartisan way, the steps of the Capitol, to just celebrate together.
Then, President Bush signed the legislation with great pride, with great pride. And with great pride, he came to Selma, Alabama, and – for the 50th anniversary of the March, and he was welcomed with great pride.
Congresswoman Sewell. With Ms. Laura.
Speaker Pelosi. And that was — that was a pretty wonderful honor to have Mrs. Bush, Laura Bush, there as well.
But in any event, to thank all that you have acknowledged: of course, Steny, Mr. Nadler, Mr. Clyburn isn’t here, but this is what his life has been about. Steve Cohen and his Committee did such a great job. G.K. Butterfield, Zoe Lofgren, Joyce Beatty, Judy Chu and Chuy García, who is here from the Hispanic Caucus.
It took so many people, but it also took the spirit of our Caucus, which has long been inspired by the spirit of John Lewis. What an honor it was to all of us to serve with him. What a further honor it is to pass legislation in his name.
And how fortunate we are — had such a great sponsor of the bill, persistent, persistent, persistent, Terri Sewell. Thank you, thank you so much.
Now, it is my pleasure to go to someone who's been on this case for a very long time, as well. He knows the history. He knows the people. He knows the possibilities. He makes things happen. And when it comes to voting rights and Selma, you’ve probably been there more than any other Member, right?
Leader Hoyer. I think maybe, yeah.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, not John Lewis.
Leader Hoyer. Not John Lewis.
Leader Hoyer. Not John Lewis.
Speaker Pelosi. No, but – our very distinguished Leader, Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer.