Leading civil rights organizations issued the following joint statement in response to the double atrocity committed in the Senate, both in blocking a vote on the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and in failing to change Senate rules to prevent such obstruction:
“Members of the U.S. Senate tonight covered themselves in shame. They chose cowardice and discrimination over courage and principle. Whether out of a willingness to deny millions of Americans their most sacred constitutional right, a spineless submission to the party line, or a misguided allegiance to an arcane Senate rule, 52 Senators have betrayed the nation’s highest ideals.
“We cannot overstate the enormity of their actions tonight, nor our disgust and dismay in response. A failure to defend the right to vote is a failure to defend America itself. In choosing yet again to block a vote on the bill – supported by more than three in five Americans – these Senators have revealed their contempt for the will of the people. In refusing to amend Senate rules to exempt voting rights from the filibuster – also supported by a majority of Americans — they have revealed their contempt for the Constitution. We are glad that Democratic leadership pressed forward and powerfully presented the case for this vote. We believe it was important for the nation to see tonight those Senators who stand with our communities and those who don’t.
“We will not stop pressing for this legislation until enough senators reverse course and fulfill their obligation under the 15th Amendment to protect voting access from racial discrimination. Those who have the courage to defy party leadership and petty threats of retribution and allow justice to flow will be remembered as patriots and heroes. Those who do not will be remembered as hypocrites and cowards.
“Tonight’s votes are a disappointment, but not a defeat. Democracy’s foes have not had the last word. As civil rights leaders and as patriotic Americans we will never stop fighting to preserve and defend the rights for which our predecessors bled and died.”
This statement was signed by the following organizations:
- National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Interim President and CEO Wade Henderson
- National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable President and CEO Melanie Campbell
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Damon Hewitt
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill
- NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson
- National Council of Negro Women Executive Director Janice L. Mathis
- National Action Network President and Founder Reverend Al Sharpton