03.09.15

Days After Selma Anniversary, Leahy Calls On Senate To Restore the Voting Rights Act & Confirm AG Nominee Loretta Lynch

Leahy: “The civil rights milestones we celebrate this month must not be relegated to historical discussions”

WASHINGTON (Monday, March 9, 2015) – Days after a bipartisan group of lawmakers traveled to Selma, Alabama to honor the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march that gave way to the Voting Rights Act, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took to the floor Monday to urge Congress to restore that landmark law and to confirm Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch.

“In commemorating the bravery of these foot soldiers for justice, we are reminded of what we can accomplish when we stand on principle, and when we come together to do what is right,” said Leahy, who will soon reintroduce legislation to restore key protections of the VRA.

“The civil rights milestones we celebrate this month must not be relegated to historical discussions. We should come together, as this body has done so many times before, to restore the Voting Rights Act, and to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to equal protection under the law,” said Leahy, who last year introduced legislation to restore the VRA in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision. Leahy will soon reintroduce a version of that bill. 

The Senate also has a chance to advance the cause of civil rights by supporting Lynch’s historic nomination to be the first African American woman to lead the Department of Justice, Leahy said. Lynch’s nomination was announced 121 days ago. Her nomination was reported by the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis 11 days ago.  In the last 30 years, no Attorney General nominee has waited longer than Loretta Lynch to receive a floor vote after being reported from Committee. 

“In the wake of the bipartisan and inspirational celebration in Selma, we should come together to honor the difficult work of the Justice Department by scheduling a vote to confirm the first African American woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States,” Leahy said.  “Let us show the American people what we can do when we come together.  Let us finally vote to confirm Loretta Lynch.”

#####

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the Nomination of Loretta Lynch
to Serve as Attorney General of the United States
March 9, 2015

This past weekend, Americans gathered in Selma, Alabama to mark the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when hundreds of brave men and women marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge – only to be savagely beaten because they dared to stand up for their right to vote.  Their blood, sweat, and tears helped pave the way for the Voting Rights Act, and ultimately helped move our Nation toward a more perfect union.  In commemorating the bravery of these foot soldiers for justice, we are reminded of what we can accomplish when we stand on principle, and when we come together to do what is right.

At a time when lawmakers seem far too polarized on the most important issues facing our Nation, I was encouraged to see leaders from both political parties join President Obama, Congressman Lewis, and so many others this weekend in Selma.  President George W. Bush, a former leader of the Republican Party, shared the stage with President Obama to honor the brave men and women who inspired a nation and helped bring about historic change. 

I worked with President Bush on the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, along with the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senator Specter.  And in response to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, I have been working with Congressman Sensenbrenner on bipartisan legislation that would restore the Voting Rights Act.  Unfortunately, no Republican Senator has yet stepped forward to join me in introducing this legislation here in the Senate.  The Republican Party of 2006 reached across the aisle to advance the cause of voting rights, and I am still hopeful that the Republican Senate of 2015 will continue this bipartisan tradition. 

The civil rights milestones we celebrate this month must not be relegated to historical discussions.  The plain reality is that racial discrimination in voting still exists in this country.  Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged that very fact in his opinion in Shelby, and put it upon Congress to update the Voting Rights Act.  So now it is time for us to act.  

In his inspirational speech in Selma on Saturday, President Obama noted that 100 members of Congress had come to Selma to honor people who were willing to die for the right to vote.  He then laid out a challenge by saying, “if we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore [the Voting Rights Act] this year.  That’s how we honor those on this bridge.”

I agree with the President. We should come together, as this body has done so many times before, to restore the Voting Rights Act, and to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to equal protection under the law. 

Today, in that same spirit, I urge all Senators to come together to confirm Loretta Lynch to be our next Attorney General, and the first African American woman ever to hold this position.  The delay of her confirmation is unprecedented and unwarranted, and it must end now.

It has been 121 days since President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ms. Lynch.  Her nomination was reported by the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis 11 days ago.  In the last 30 years, no Attorney General nominee has waited longer than Loretta Lynch to receive a floor vote after being reported from Committee.  I have been asking the Majority Leader for more than a week to simply schedule a vote on the confirmation of Ms. Lynch, and I have been joined by every Democratic Senator in doing so.  But a vote still has not been scheduled, and I have yet to hear a valid explanation as to why.  Ms. Lynch’s nomination has broad support from Democrats and Republicans across the legal and law enforcement communities – so there is no excuse.  She should not be treated any differently than previous nominees, and Ms. Lynch should receive a vote tonight, along with the other nominees we are confirming. 

In the wake of the bipartisan and inspirational celebration in Selma, we should come together to honor the difficult work of the Justice Department by scheduling a vote to confirm the first African American woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States.  Let us show the American people what we can do when we come together.  Let us finally vote to confirm Loretta Lynch. 

#####

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693