Obama Pitches ‘John Lewis Act’ to Expand Voting Rights to Felons, Puerto Rico; Scrap Filibuster

Obama Pitches ‘John Lewis Act’ to Expand Voting Rights to Felons, Puerto Rico; Scrap Filibuster


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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While eulogizing John Lewis Thursday to thunderous applause, former president Barack Obama sought to leave the congressman and civil rights giant a durable political legacy.

Obama was one of three former presidents to eulogize Lewis in a grand service befitting the man who became known as the “conscience of the Congress,” after becoming known as a hero of the civil rights movement after nearly being beaten to death leading the marches over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.

Lewis passed away earlier this month at the age of 80, after succumbing to cancer.

Speaking to repeated rounds of applause, Obama talked in soaring terms of voting rights legislation which would enshrine many of the priorities Lewis fought for in life.

“Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote, including former inmates who have earned their second chance,” the former president said. “By adding polling places and expanding early voting and making Election Day a national holiday, so if you are somebody who is working in a factory or you’re a single mom who’s got to go to her job and doesn’t get time off, you can still cast your ballot by guaranteeing that every American citizen has equal representation in our government, including the American citizens who live in Washington, D.C., and in Puerto Rico. They’re Americans.”

Obama, also a former US senator from Illinois, explicitly endorsed an end to the Senate filibuster, a procedure used to block the passage of pending legislation. While once a rarity, the threatened use of the filibuster is part of regular day-to-day business in the US Senate.

“By ending some of the partisan gerrymandering so that all voters have the power to choose their politicians, not the other way around. And if all of this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do,” Obama added.

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