Boehner, Cantor declined invitation to speak at MLK event

The House’s two most senior Republicans, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), turned down invitations to speak at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Boehner opted to speak at a separate congressional ceremony commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech on Capitol Hill, Roll Call reported, rather than at Wednesday’s event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

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Cantor was asked to participate in the event, which featured speeches from President Obama and former Presidents Clinton and Jimmy Carter, just 12 days ago. The majority leader was traveling in North Dakota and Ohio on Wednesday and declined the invitation.  

Cantor’s decision is notable because he traveled to Selma, Ala., with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) earlier this year and has stated his commitment to passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act in the 113th Congress.  

Renowned civil rights activist Julian Bond said Wednesday that the leaders’ decisions were mistakes, noting the lack of GOP national leaders scheduled to speak at the ceremony.

“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me — just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond said on MSNBC. “They asked a long list of Republicans to come, and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get 'em this way.”