House passes bill awarding medal to civil rights marchers

The House on Wednesday passed a bill awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to 1965 civil rights marchers.

Under the measure, passed 420-0, a single medal would be awarded to the “foot soldiers” who participated in “Bloody Sunday,” “Turnaround Tuesday” or the final Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in March 1965.

{mosads}The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when voting rights activists marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and encountered violent Alabama state troopers, will be next month on March 7.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), the bill’s sponsor, said she was a “direct beneficiary” of civil rights activists in her state.

“As Alabama’s first black congresswoman, I know that the journey that I now take was only made possible because of the courage and bravery of the foot soldiers of the voting rights movement. As a native – a proud native – of Selma and the U.S. representative who now represents Selma and parts of Montgomery, I am the direct beneficiary of their sacrifice,” Sewell said.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) said that she will be bringing her daughter to the anniversary march next month with other members of Congress.

“As we look toward the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, it is certainly fitting to honor the brave individuals who against brutality and oppression, took a stand for their God-given rights,” Roby said. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) argued that Congress should go beyond awarding a medal and pass revisions of the Voting Rights Act to restore parts of the law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013.

“There is bipartisan legislation introduced which can be brought to the floor, passed in time for the Selma anniversary next month and certainly must be passed before the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6,” Pelosi said.

But Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said the suggestions of passing a rewrite of the Voting Rights Act were “politicizing” Wednesday’s debate, maintaining that Congress should leave the legislation to the committee process.

“I have no interest in politicizing this great bipartisan medal act we currently have. And let’s not turn this important act into a debate that will be, frankly, held in the Judiciary Committee rather than on the House floor,” Huizenga said.

Tags Selma Terri Sewell
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